Boston just wrapped up a mild winter, one that found a growing number of residents wrapped in Canada Goose.
The down jackets have proven popular, pricy, and — for some — quite controversial.
The parkas, known for their red-and-blue logo patches and exorbitant price tags (a woman’s coat can cost upward of $750), have come under fire by animal rights groups such as PETA and Animal Justice Canada, which dispute the company’s claim that the jackets’ coyote fur trim comes from “humanely” trapped animals.
“There’s no humane way to kill a coyote for fur,” said Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, which filed a legal complaint last year with the Competition Bureau of Canada, accusing Canada Goose of misleading consumers.
In March, the Competition Bureau discontinued its inquiry into the complaint, stating it had not found sufficient evidence of false advertisement in Canada Goose’s marketing.
Canada Goose’s chief brand officer, Kevin Spreekmeester, denied any deceptive marketing moves, as well as the animal cruelty that groups like Animal Justice intrinsically oppose. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said of such allegations. “We’re all good, kind-hearted people who want the best for everyone … including animals.”
Canada Goose’s website says it supports the “ethical, responsible and sustainable use of fur” and “humane treatment of animals,” adding that fur trapping is regulated by provincial and territorial wildlife departments in Canada, all of which abide by the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS).
That 1997 agreement between Canada, the USA, and the European Union established standards for animal trapping devices. Its passage ended years of negotiations sparked by the EU’s ban on leg-hold traps throughout member nations, as well as on the import of fur from countries where leg-hold traps remained legal.
“AIHTS may have the word humane in the title, but it has nothing to do with the animals,” Labchuk said. “It has everything to do with keeping market access open for traps.”
Referencing AIHTS-established regulations for leg-hold traps, she added, “If 80 percent of animals don’t show signs of injury, broken bones, broken skin, lacerations, or internal organ damage, then the trap is so-called humane.”
Alan Herscovici, executive vice-president of the Fur Council of Canada, said animal rights groups are guilty of “sensationalizing” trapping practices. “The responsibility of trapping animals safely and humanely has been recognized,” he explained. “Is it perfect in every way? No, nothing is, but it’s considerably better than it was.”
Adrian Nelson, director of communications for Fur Bearer Defenders, says the problem is that there is no legal definition for “humane” in this context. He believes that many customers don’t realize how the jacket’s fur trims are made.
“I don’t think people put two and two together,” said Nelson. “Especially given how popular faux fur is nowadays, they don’t consider that it is real fur, let alone where it comes from.”
The Globe asked 15 Boston-area Canada Goose owners if they had been aware of controversy surrounding the brand’s fur trim before their purchase. Only four said they had.
KJ Inoue, 22, found it “very disappointing” to discover, after buying a jacket, that the company used real fur. “Corporate social responsibility is very important to me, so when I found out, it was too late.”
Another coat owner, Rodolfo Linares, 37, believed he was wearing fake fur when asked about it by a reporter.
“I don’t think they make that clear in their marketing,” he said, adding that he appreciates the coat’s warmth but that he’s “not a fan of the idea of trapping coyotes in the wild.”
Coat owner Jihyun Nam, 20, said he knew about the controversy. “All my friends wear it, and it’s warm,” he explained, adding that Canada Goose’s quality was the deciding factor. “If I knew of a brand that was as good at keeping me warm and didn’t use animal fur, then I would have chosen that coat.”
Inoue has since removed her jacket’s fur trim but still feels deceived. “I don’t think there’s enough transparency in how these jackets are made,” she said. “People do have the right to buy whatever they want if they can live with it, but consumers also have the right to know what they’re purchasing.”