A Project for Better Journalism chapter

The Dark Underbelly of Episcopal’s Newest Trend

The first time I heard about this new wintertime fad at Episcopal was when my roommate, Jinsoo Kim, walked into our room with a sizeable box, emblazoned with the words Canada Goose along the side. He pulled out a fur-lined, down-packed object of beauty—the infamous Canada Goose parka many members of the Episcopal community have seen popping up around campus. My second important experience with Canada Goose was during a conversation with Mr. Sohn at the “Nook.” After exchanging the casual, groggy “good mornings,” he commented about people wearing said jackets throughout the dining hall: “Most people wearing that jacket don’t know the coyote fur that lines the hoods come from coyotes that were trapped for the exclusive use of their fur.” He further mentioned the deceptive marketing of Canada Goose and how the company covered up unethical sourcing of the fur and down used in these jackets. This conversation sparked my journey to discover the truly dark underbelly of Canada Goose’s intentions.

After I made my way back from the “Nook” to my next class, I ended up opening my computer to do some of my own research. I have never paid too much attention to companies who use animal products; they are fully integrated into American culture. Shoes, furniture, clothing, and car upholstery often use a variety of these animal-derived products. But what differentiates Canada Goose from all other fur and down clothing companies is its deceptive and unethical scheme for better profits. For many people, down is one of the warmest materials to wear. Clothing companies like Patagonia and North Face actually use real goose down. But the particular problem with Canada Goose is that, unlike Patagonia and North Face, they falsely claim their supply chain as “ethically-sourced.” It is anything but ethical. Many other major companies have committed themselves to cleaning up their sourcing methods by banning any live-plucked or force-fed goose down—not Canada Goose. They purchase a majority of their down from Chinese suppliers, groups that are not regulated like they are in the U.S. In these Chinese factories, the down from the geese is live-plucked, a cheaper yet excruciatingly painful process. If Canada Goose were to truly claim humane treatment in their supply chain, what would be their motivation for this outsourcing? The truth is that Canada Goose solely has profits in mind when making such decisions. These $1,500+ jackets are produced at extremely low cost thanks to live-plucking. The other important aspect of this jacket is its coyote fur-lining. According to the company’s website, “coyotes are considered a pest as they attack livestock, endanger prey species, pets and sometimes even people.” This claim is accompanied with videos of fur and down floating gently in the wind, zero mentions of the words “die” or “kill,” and essentially implying that zero alternatives are available to these jackets.

But, in reality, these claims are patently false. As shown in Mr. Sohn’s following comment, the real motivation behind buying this jacket is not the lack of alternatives but the: “status associated with the jacket. The same status is associated with Barbour, or really any brand we choose to wear. At some point, I have to imagine it is obscene and truly absurd to spend a dollar amount on a jacket that will be worn for a few months of the year that is equal to the current monthly salary of the poverty line in America.” This poignant perspective into the reality behind these jackets clears up any doubt that Canada Goose is solely out to create profits and to become a status symbol. Their excuse that coyotes are pests is just another misleading, faulty distraction from the reality of hunting these animals solely for their fur. Coyote carcasses are never used to their fully extent and are simply cast to the wayside after harvesting the fur.

As I finished up my excursion into the dark underbelly of Canada Goose, I decided to ask a number of students who were both advocates and opponents to these jackets. Ben Korkowski chose to ignore the unethical standards in exchange for joining this trend: “It was for a fashion statement. Anything and everything must be sacrificed for style. It’s unfortunate, but I need to look good.” Elizabeth Silliman believes the jacket is worth the sacrifice: “Because the quality is unparalleled and they are stylish. I am not fully aware about the fur and down policy. But ignorance is bliss, am I right?” And finally an anonymous source stated, “The fur and down controversy is completely Fake News. They are great jackets and the Fake News Media can say whatever it wants!” This is clearly a subjective debate. Some choose to be blissfully ignorant, while others might be more wary. But all anyone can ask of you is that when you decide to go shopping for your next winter coat, be an informed consumer. And for those of you who are truly informed, Canada Goose is clearly not the best option.