Ministers are launching a call for evidence on the implications of a block on importing and selling real fur, inviting businesses and the public to submit views.
Fur farming is considered so cruel that it was outlawed in the UK in 2003, but since then the UK has imported more than £800m worth of animal fur, according to figures from HM Revenue & Customs.
Bought from countries including Finland, China, France and Poland, real fur is often used for hat bobbles, hood trims and boots and slippers, as well as coats from exclusive stores.
As the call for evidence was announced, Humane Society International/UK revealed a new opinion poll showing nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of the public support backed a fur import and sales ban.
The Yonder opinion poll showed 52 per cent of respondents “strongly support” a ban, 12 per cent opposed a ban, 14 per cent were neutral and 3 per cent did not know.
Support was strongest in Wales, where 82 per cent backed a ban, and only 6 per cent opposed one.
Last month campaigners for animal welfare handed a petition of more than a million signatures calling for a ban to Downing Street.
Each year the fur trade worldwide kills an estimated 130 million animals – mostly foxes, chinchilla, mink, raccoon dogs and rabbits.
Most are intensively farmed in battery-cage systems, and the rest are from wild animals caught in traps.
Animals confined to small cages are often filmed frantically turning in circles, in conditions that literally drive the animals mad, campaigners say.
Photographs from fur farms abroad have shown animals suffering untreated wounds and painful infections, and even resorting to cannibalism.
But the British Fur Trade Association, which supports sales of real animal fur, says a ban would be unenforceable and would increase the amount of fur imported from “unregulated” sources.
It also says a ban would put businesses and jobs at risk.
Claire Bass, executive director of HSI/UK, told The Independent a ban on imports and sales would not affect businesses dealing in second-hand fur.
“We hope the government hears from the ever-growing list of designers and retailers that are proud to be fur-free and firmly see the future of British fashion as one of sustainability, humane treatment of animals, innovation and textile technology – that’s how the UK can be a world leader in fashion.”
Ms Bass, who has previously investigated Finnish fur farms in person, said the animals she saw were “ghosts, empty souls, living in barren cages”.
Many shoppers buy real fur unknowingly, believing it to be fake.
Minister Lord Goldsmith told The Independent earlier this month: “We have to look at the evidence whenever you bring in a rule that changes the value of a business, you have to consult. You can’t just unilaterally decide, otherwise the policy would be overturned.”