Editorial

My Thoughts on Fur and the Irresponsible Plague of Canada Goose

I recently posted a link on social media to an article in Huffington Post that challenged the ethics of Canada Goose’s use of real coyote fur on their jackets. For the record, I am vehemently opposed to fur.

In the comments section, I kind of “got into it” with a follower who professed his love of fur and his support of Canada’s fur industry. This same guy also claimed he loved animals, as most people would. Since I’m a guy who owns two dogs, doesn’t eat meat and detests the use of fur for fashion, you can imagine the field day I could have with a back-and-forth in the thread of comments. Since then, it feels like I’m seeing more and more Canada Goose jackets on the streets of Manhattan, as if the universe is deliberately jabbing me in the ribs and cranking up the heat in my blood.

In the interest of keeping warm, real animal fur as a textile is an absolute non-essential. It is purely a style choice – a style choice that begins with the setting of crippling traps in the animal’s own environment, then continues with a killshot to the head before the animal is skinned for its fur.

Then there are fur farms where foxes, minks, lynxes and other animals are “bred” for their fur. These animals are often skinned while they’re still alive. Supporters of the industry rationalize with something like “It’s fine. They’re bred for that.” Once upon a time, America had a little labor industry that was enabled by enslaving an entire culture of sentient beings who were “bred” for picking cotton. This was perfectly fine with a lot of people until some enlightened, forward-thinking individuals got a conscience, tuned their moral compasses and dared to challenge a barbaric system. 

In the case of Canada Goose, all of this is done so that the company can merely add a trim to their hoods. Again… Not essential to the warmth or performance of a good winter jacket. This is just a style choice. Whether through trapping or breeding, animals used for fur, like our beloved dogs, are sentient beings who experience pain, hunger, joy and fear. They are killed to support a Paleolithic notion of “fabulous.” Not fabulous.

IMG_2803

Since I’m an animal-loving dog owner who doesn’t eat mammals, one might be tempted to brand me a hypocrite because I wear leather shoes. Here’s the thing about that: Though I don’t eat their meat, cows are used to feed a lot of people and our dogs. Other parts of the animal are used to make other edibles, both for humans and canines. And the hide is, of course, used for leather goods. Animals killed for fur are just killed for fur, nothing else.

Even with my own leathers, I continue to question and evolve. As of this writing, I own exactly twelve pairs of leather shoes or boots, three leather belts and one leather jacket. The jacket was something I bought nearly twenty years ago and something I would never buy today because I’d rather keep the dead animal quotient to as low a minimum as possible. In fact, I wear it so seldom that I’m tempted to give it to Housing Works, where I dropped off my leather pants years ago. To me, there’s a certain vulgarity to lots of leather. Leather shoes, leather boots, leather bags, leather jackets, leather furniture, leather car upholstry… I cut it where I can and pretty much keep it to shoes, which I do not purchase often at all. Progress, not perfection here. But, again, the cow is used for many other things that benefit both humans and animals. Fur and its absolute uselessness are in a league of their own.

I don’t wish to shame or antagonize anyone. As much as I’d like to, I don’t have the innate chutzpah to physically confront fur-wearers like individual animal rights activists and entire organizations do. It’s just not my nature. But I do get angry and I can write. Animals cannot speak for themselves, and as a human merely borrowing space on this rock until I die, I don’t think it’s my place to conquer and kill. Our place in the food chain is pretty secure right out of the gate. I rather see my purpose as a sharer, steward and guardian who does his best to do no harm. 

Photo by Dustin Cohen - www.dustincohen.com
Photo by Dustin Cohen – www.dustincohen.com

In today’s connected market with consumers becoming more conscious and interested in where and how their clothes are made, transparency is king. Many fashion companies with savvy public relations are very transparent about their processes, with some even producing beautiful mini-documentary videos that tell the story of how their goods are made, from the gathering of the raw materials to the cutting and assembly of them to the finished product. Canada Goose, however, could never produce such content with total transparency. If they did, I imagine that people would be disgusted and quite turned off by the truth of what happens behind the curtain. Their success depends on the “ignorance-is-bliss” model of luxury marketing.

With that said, I will conclude this post with hope for more change and more conscientious consumption and with a video. I present this video with a warning that it is not easy to watch at all. It depicts how coyotes are caught in a traps, with some footage of them actually being killed. It’s difficult to watch, but it’s an incredibly enlightening look at the reality of fur for fur’s sake. 

Thank you for reading, thank you for thinking and thank you for (re)considering your choices when you take out your wallets.

WARNING: This video is graphic, but it does depict the truth. Consider carefully before hitting the play button.

16 Comments

  1. What are your thoughts on down as an insulation then? I usually go with synthetic insulation in outerwear, but down is still untouched as a light insulation. We just haven’t made a better insulator yet that is as useful in garments.

    I agree numerous people are buying Canada Goose jackets where it is unnecessary, my Skookum (practical Canada Goose) jacket only comes out below -10f. But once you drop below that, the down benefits are definitely useful.

    I use coyote fur in my own textiles, but since I am using it for warmth, and not fashion, I only take coyotes suffering with mange. Mange is more inhumane to the coyote, and any coyotes it then gives mange to than ethical hunting in my opinion. Since I don’t trap, and don’t need a perfect coat, I can be selective.

    • George Reply

      Excellent comment. I had a down vest that I abandoned last year. Other than that, I haven’t worn outerwear with down for a long time and have been keeping VERY warm down-free ever since. In fact, since my puppy recently destroyed my down comforter, I used it as an opportunity to explore a down-alternative comforter. I purchased one a month ago and couldn’t be more thrilled with it.

      I like your idea of only using fur from coyotes with mange. A friend suggested the idea of only using fur from roadkill victims. (“Road Kill Furs”??? Could be something.) Anyway… Thank you for reading and for leaving such a thoughtful comment. G

  2. If we didn’t have reasonable alternatives, I am all for humans using animals to eat and clothe ourselves. Heck, I’d still accept it even if the alternatives were really hard, as I am a sucker for convenience. But now, with such reasonable options, especially in relative abundance of the U.S., it seems like the right time to shift away from the practice of killing animals for such uses. I went vegetarian (and marathon-runner) about three years ago. The transition is not as hard as you would think.

    • George Reply

      Indeed. And congrats on going veg. With so many good (and easy) options now, I really don’t miss meat. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

  3. Great read as usual and excellent point on people equating real fur to “warmth”.

  4. Well written and thought provoking article. While my personal beliefs do not align exactly with yours, I very much appreciate a well spoken argument based on something other than the mud slinging and name calling that one usually sees when topics like this are discussed. Any animal should be fully utilized if it is used for human consumption of any type (meat, fur, hide, etc) and not just for one particular item or as a hunting ‘trophy’. I’m not anti-hunting either, but I can’t stand to see an animal taken just for a trophy. If you just want a trophy shot, use a camera. It still requires great skill to get a great shot. Fur really is beautiful but it is most beautiful on its ‘original’ owner.

  5. No animal should even be hunted, they should be treated like humans, how would you like to be hunted for sport

  6. Great article, I love when you rant!
    You are almost there George, I can fell you are on the verge of being vegetarian for clothes too 🙂
    It takes a while, but the more you think about it, the more superfluous it sounds to wear leather in general. It took me 10 years of vegetarianism and criticizing other vegs/vegans for being too ‘hardcore’, but I finally stopped buying clothes containing leather. There are some vegetarian shoes and belt options, admittedly there is less choice, but they look OK (don’t know about durability yet).
    But the worst as you say, is when leather is included for style, not practically (ex: small touches of leather in running shoes)

  7. Thanks for a well articulated and important post. This has been very challenging for me. I’ve been vegetarian for a long time, and vegan for over ten years. By nature, I tend to push the boundary as far as I can, and naturally was a hard-line vegan (no leather, wool, silk etc). My reasoning was thus: wearing animal products is nothing more than unnecessary vanity, to choose animal sourced products is to prioritize your appearance over the well-being of the animal. While I think the essence of that is mostly right, now that I have to dress properly, and indeed have learned about quality products, I have become more pragmatic with respect veganism (harm reduction as much as possible).

    Shoes are definitely challenging. There are no vegan shoes that come close to proper made shoes. My philosophy here was that going with longevity counts a great deal. My properly-made, Goodyear welted shoes should last me fifty years. Cheaper (but not cheap) shoes will usually need replacing every five years. That is a significant reduction in leather dependence (say like some folks being vegetarian 5 days of the week). I have heard counter-arguments that plenty of animals are killed for leather, but I don’t know for sure.

    The arguments regarding wool are a little different, but the same argument applies – going for a quality garment that will last makes a difference, both to the animals involved, but also to our environment, a huge victim of throwaway fashion wear. (According to the Story of Stuff project, H&M design 26 fashion seasons a year… time to throw that out, now buy this…)

    For my brief case, I have gone with a Jack Spade waxed canvas one. It has some leather trim, but it’s the best solution I have found. I have considered LV briefcase for the same reason ($$$). Any tips in this area are welcome 🙂

    Unfortunately, human technology is yet to beat the capabilities of materials like wool, but no doubt we’ll get there one day. Lab-grown meat is just around the corner. One of my heroes in this area is Tim Gunn who has challenged the fashion industry to consider the implications of the materials they source, and to consider the alternatives. Another is Joshua Katcher, who runs Brave Gentleman (https://www.bravegentleman.com/) and the blog ‘The Discerning Brute’ (http://www.thediscerningbrute.com/) – they were doing custom suits, but it looks as though this may no longer be the case.

    And now you 🙂 Thanks, George!

  8. I’m pretty new to your website but this article is a really refreshing take on more ethical menswear. Have you had any experience with “A Brave Gentleman”? It’s a higher end vegan blog/retailer who makes some great looking items including leather free shoes.

    • George Reply

      Thank you! Yes, I’m a big fan of BG and founder Joshua Katcher.

Talk to me...