It’s getting cold outside, and some people are beginning to wear Canada Goose jackets —designer coats identified by their coyote fur-trimmed hoods, goose down insulation and sleeve patches sporting the Arctic Circle. While the coats have become hugely popular in recent years, they’re made at a big cost to animals.
According to animal welfare advocates, animals are horribly mistreated to produce Canada Goose garments — coyotes are caught in painful traps and die slow, agonizing deaths, and geese are violently handled before getting shipped off to the slaughterhouse.
Yet Canada Goose denies that its coats are associated with any animal welfare issues — instead, the company claims to get fur and down from “ethical” sources.
Canada Goose’s ‘Ethical Claims’
On Canada Goose’s website, a page entitled “Fur and Down” unfolds the company’s policy on fur, down and other animal-based materials used to make the coats.
“We believe all animals are entitled to humane treatment in life and death, and we are deeply committed to the ethical sourcing and responsible use of all animal materials in our products,” Canada Goose says. “We do not condone any willful mistreatment, neglect, or acts that maliciously cause animals undue suffering. Our standards for the sourcing and use of fur, down and wool reflect our commitment that materials are sourced from animals that are not subject to willful mistreatment or undue harm."
Prashant Khetan,former CEO and general counsel for Born Free USA, an animal advocacy organization, commends Canada Goose on some level for its effort to be transparent. But at the same time, he doesn’t think that the company’s claims of “ethical sourcing” hold up, especially when it comes to the coyotes used to make the fur trim on the coats.
“They say that they believe in the humane treatment of animals, both in life and in death, but the fact is that if they’re getting fur from coyotes … [by] trapping,” Khetan told The Dodo in March.
Trapping Coyotes For Their Fur
In the clothing industry, about 85 percent of fur used in the clothing industry is sourced from fur farms, according to Khetan. On fur farms, animals like minks, raccoons and foxes are raised in tiny cages until it’s time for them to be skinned for their fur — sometimes they’re even skinned while still alive.
Coyotes, on the other hand, tend to be caught from the wild — but this is just as cruel as fur farming, Khetan explained. Most trappers in the U.S. and Canada use steel leghold traps, a device that has been banned in 100 other countries.
“It’s these traps that essentially slam shut on an animal like a coyote, but it doesn’t kill them — it just keeps them immobile, and it slowly eats away at them,” Khetan said. “We’ve done investigations, and we have actual footage of where animals are there for days, and they’re trying to chew off their limbs just to get out of the traps.”
If a trapped coyote is a mother with young pups, the pups will end up starving back at the den while the mother suffers in the trap. Not only would she be experiencing excruciating physical pain, but she’d be incredibly distressed at not being able to get back to her family.
“They feel emotion and pain and everything the same way a human does,” Khetan said. “So imagine an animal in the wild who is now trapped. There’s a sense of helplessness. The fact that we have videos of animals trying to gnaw off their own limbs — to me, that’s a very powerful image of what they’re going through … it’s not that different than what a human being would do if you were in an analogous situation.”
In very rare cases, some coyotes do free themselves of the traps, but this often results in badly injured and irreparable limbs. If rescuers manage to find them in time, they can sometimes be rehabilitated — but this usually isn’t possible.
Most of the time, it’s impossible for coyotes to free themselves from the traps. At best, they may rip the traps out of the ground, and they walk around for days with the traps attached to them, according to Khetan.
“It’s literally walking around with a trap attached to its neck or to its limb,” Khetan said. “Eventually, they will die, but they will die after suffering for days.”
No Real Rules For Killing Coyotes
Another claim that Canada Goose makes is that it only gets coyote fur from trappers who are “strictly regulated by state, provincial and federal standards.” Yet Khetan says that this statement doesn’t count for much.
“Most states don’t have laws and restrictions on trapping, and when they do, they’re not really enforced,” he said.
In 2017, Born Free USA released a report on trapping laws in the U.S. While states like California and Hawaii have strict laws in place, other states like Wyoming, Iowa and Alaska — where coyote trapping is very common — have little to no restrictions on trapping animals.
Warning: graphic photo below
For instance, in Alaska and Wyoming, trappers do not need to even to check their traps every 24 hours, which means that coyotes and other animals could suffer in the traps for days, slowly dying from things like exposure, shock, injury or blood loss. In states where trappers are required to check every 24 hours, the law isn’t always enforced — and sometimes animals can suffer for days.
But it’s not just coyotes who get caught in the traps — household pets and endangered animals get caught too — and many states don’t require trappers to report when they catch non-target animals.
“Since traps are non-selective, threatened or endangered species — and even people’s pets — are commonly caught and killed,” PJ Smith, senior manager of fashion policy for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), told The Dodo.
The vast majority of states also don’t specify how hunters have to kill trapped animals, which allows trappers to kill animals in whatever way they want.
“The way that they deal with that situation is often quite brutal … and these aren’t generally folks that are doing that in a humane way,” Khetan said. “Sometimes they drown them. Sometimes they kick them with their boots until they die. Sometimes they club them. There’s just all kinds of images and videos that we have.”
“It’s almost hard to fathom how people can do these things, but that’s the reality of how a coyote goes from being in the wild to being trapped, and ends up going to a factory where it’s stripped of its skin to be used for the fur, and then gets used by Canada Goose,” Khetan added.
Where Goose Down Comes From
Coyotes aren’t the only animals who suffer to make Canada Goose coats — the coats are also insulated with goose down, and geese pay a hefty price for this choice of material.
In October 2016, the PETA Foundation sent two investigators to James Valley Colony (JVC) Farms in Elie, Manitoba, one of the suppliers from which Canada Goose sources its down, according to PETA. They released their findings in a video — it can be a little upsetting to watch.
“The first thing we observed was the stench,” one of the investigators, who asked to stay anonymous for her own protection, told The Dodo. “As soon as we got out of the car ... the smell of feces was so overwhelming that I gagged four times before I could get ahold of myself and try to breathe through my mouth instead of my nose. It was just so overwhelming.”
Besides the stench, the investigators saw things that seemed to directly contradict what Canada Goose said about ethical sourcing. They watched as hundreds of geese (who were hatched and raised on the farm) were violently handled while being crammed into transport crates.
“It started out where colony workers were herding the geese into small pens that had multilevel crates ... and two tractor trailers [were] ready to be stacked with those crates,” the investigator said. “Once they got dozens of geese into these wire pens, the workers just started grabbing them by their necks and picking them up — their whole body weight hanging by their throats essentially.”
“One guy picked up two in each hand, and the geese were screaming,” she added. “It looked terrifying, and the geese were panicked and they were just scrambling, trying to get away from these men who were grabbing them left and right.”
The geese piled on top of each other during the tussle, leaving the geese at the bottom of the pile struggling for breath. In fact, one goose suffocated and died, as shown in a video taken during the visit. (The video contains upsetting footage, but you can watch it here.)
They also witnessed the workers stepping on top of the geese as they grabbed them and shoved them into the transport crates. The crates were so small that the geese couldn’t stand or extend their long necks, according to the investigator.
But things were about to get even worse for the geese. After being loaded onto the truck, they were driven to Schiltz Foods in South Dakota, the largest goose slaughterhouse in North America. Other PETA investigators had previously gone undercover at Schiltz Farms, and they witnessed geese being kept inside of their transport cages for up to 24 hours. And once they were unloaded, the geese were killed, defeathered for their down and slaughtered for their meat.
Canada Goose claims that it does not live-pluck its geese, which involves pulling a goose’s feathers out while they’re still alive, although this is a common practice in goose down farming, Christina Sewell, assistant manager for the clothing and fabric campaign at PETA Foundation, told The Dodo.
Instead the geese at Schiltz Foods are thrown into a “defeathering tank,” where scalding water singes the feathers from their bodies — and sometimes the geese are still alive and conscious, according to Sewell.
Canada Goose’s Denial
When The Dodo contacted Canada Goose, a spokesperson explained that all fur is sourced in accordance with the Agreement of International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) in Canada and the National Trappers Association's best management practices in the United States.
The company also denied that it sourced goose down from JVC.
“The animals and the treatment of them shown in PETA’s video from November 2017 are not a part of the Canada Goose supply chain, as confirmed by our supplier, Feather Industries,” a spokesperson from Canada Goose told The Dodo. “We audit our supply chain to ensure global and our own standards are being met at all times. We hold all suppliers accountable and have firm protocols in place if any supplier in any part of our supply chain is found in breach of our strict requirements. Once again, this is a case of activists misrepresenting the truth for their own purposes.”
When The Dodo asked Canada Goose to clarify if it had ever sourced down from JVC, the company did not respond.
According to the PETA Foundation, Canada Goose featured JVC in one of its own promotional videos, linking Canada Goose with the farm and hatchery.
“The majority of the video released with PETA's eyewitness investigation was recorded in October 2017 at JVC, the down supplier that Canada Goose featured at the time in its ‘down traceability’ video,” Sewell said. “Conveniently, Canada Goose took that video offline shortly after PETA's investigation was released and reposted it with no mention of JVC (although the video still showcases its farm and geese).”
Ethical Alternatives To Canada Goose
Wherever Canada Goose sources its coyote fur or down, Sewell is still sure that animals are suffering to make Canada Goose coats — and she urges consumers to seek out more ethical choices.
“There are so many alternatives available now,” Sewell said. “There are ridiculously beautiful and warm faux furs that are being used by companies like Helly Hansen, Timberland, Hoodlamb and Wully Outerwear. They are taking new technology and keeping consumers happy with a quality product that keeps them warm without the cruelty. We’d really love if Canada Goose took a page from them and started moving in that direction that are not only better for animals, but better for the environment.”
Smith from HSUS holds a similar view: “We urge Canada Goose to follow the lead of Gucci, Armani, Michael Kors and all the major brands that have announced 100 percent fur-free policies,” he said.
Correction (12/26/2018): A previous version of this article implied that coyotes are farmed for their fur. This piece has been updated with clarifications.
If you’d like to see Canada Goose stop using coyote fur and goose down, you can send them a message. You can also support investigations on Canada Goose by making a donation to Born Free USA, HSUS or PETA Foundation.