Now that the temperature has started to drop, the turkeys on Upper Campus are no longer the only birds to fear at Boston College. It is officially Canada Goose jacket weather. The popularity and divisiveness of these parkas over the past few years beg the question: Why do they matter?
Canada Goose is a Canadian brand that is distinctly recognizable by its red, white, and blue logo. The company’s website outlines a long history of authentic craftsmanship and quality products, claiming to stand for “everyday heroes who strive for excellence.” They express a responsibility to Arctic animals, demonstrated through their partnership with Polar Bears International, to which they’ve contributed over $3 million.
The polished design and shiny mission statement of the Canada Goose website really indicate a dedication to wildlife protection. The brand asserts that it “[does] not condone any willful mistreatment, neglect, or acts that maliciously cause animals undue suffering,” and that its trapping of coyotes is in line with Canada’s Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS). The guidelines stipulate that traps must not cause harm in 80% of trappings, aiming to limit the suffering of animals before they are killed. These standards have been ratified by the European Union and Russia, with similar regulations being implemented in the United States, where Canada Goose sources some of their fur. Nonetheless, they are still trapping and killing tens of thousands of coyotes each year. These standards fail to address the fact that coyotes are sentient beings who suffer when caught in traps. If they are not killed within a short span of time, the animals may try to get out of traps by biting their own feet off. This is particularly the case with mother coyotes who are separated from their cubs.
Concerning their treatment of geese, Canada Goose alleges that the birds they obtain are raised to be eaten, not to be plucked. Even if this is the case, multiple reports have demonstrated that the geese are often kept in brutal conditions. While the company does not support live-plucking, which entails pulling feathers from live geese, they allow defeathering tanks, in which boiling water removes feathers from the birds after they have been killed.
What is so disappointing about Canada Goose is that society seems to have culturally regressed in its dedication to ethical clothing. It has been well recognized for decades that the fur industry is cruel and unnecessary. If someone started wearing a full fur jacket, they would be almost universally regarded as bizarre. The popularity of the Canada Goose jacket points to a larger issue of consumer apathy and corporation marketing tactics.
Canada Goose pushes its brand as the official jackets of celebrities, film sets, and adventurers. It is featured in magazines and paparazzi photos. The jacket is no longer about how it is made but who it is made for. It has transformed into a status symbol. It has become so ingrained in public consciousness that people will buy the jacket no matter the conditions under which it was made.
The principles of wearing a fur hood and a fur coat are exactly the same. It doesn’t matter how many coyotes suffered to make the jacket—the point is that there was a loss of life. Companies like Canada Goose bypass this by becoming so mainstream that the ethical implications of buying their products don't matter. They market themselves as trendy to the point that those who don’t own their jackets are “other.”
Companies know that it is easier for people to care about what is fashionable over what is right or a smarter option. On some level, it is difficult to consume anything in a culture so dominated by companies that refuse to meet high standards for treatment of any living being. However, there are companies, such as Patagonia, that have high quality products and are genuinely dedicated to sustainability. Alternative options can be expensive, as their costs are necessary to maintain more ethical practices, but none of these brands are as pricey as Canada Goose.
Canada Goose's popularity is not a reason to shame every person on campus that chooses to wear one. Rather, it is an opportunity to assess our own habits as consumers and to be thoughtful about which brands we support and the reasons we support them.