At any school, clothing trends come in tidal waves. Bates is no different; after the first snow hit campus this year, hordes of L.L. Bean boots dominated alumni walk. As the temperature continued to drop, however, a new item seemed to be on the rise: the Canada Goose jacket. Adorned with a fur-lined hood and its circular red emblem, the distinctive profile dotted the snowy campus landscape.
Trends can be controversial. Even the beloved Bean Boots received backlash in recent months after the company was allegedly revealed to be a beneficiary of the Trump campaign. Canada Goose jackets have proven to be no different; though notably stylish, their sleek profiles are shrouded in controversy. This controversy seems to originate from a variety of sources, such as the quantity of down in the jacket, or its reputation as a status symbol. The heat of the controversy, however, seems to emanate from the jacket’s notorious, fur-lined hood.
The hood is lined with certifiably real, but “ethically sourced,” coyote fur. As jacket sales began to conflagrate among communities, videos critiquing the company’s practices followed suit. In one particular viral video, a coyote is shown suffering in a trap, allegedly set by representatives of Canada Goose. These videos are viscerally startling; the coyote’s suffering seems palpably helpless. A negative connotation with the brand’s name began to seep into the public’s perception, and rightfully so.
But throughout this controversy, I was left with a lingering question– why is it that Canada Goose jackets are so particularly controversial? Human use of animals, of which Canada Goose is one example, is pervasive. The slaughterhouse practices behind commercial meat production, for instance, seem to match, if not exceed, the cruelty displayed in the coyote trapping videos. Pigs, chickens, and cattle are slit open and sawed apart in nauseating, deeply upsetting ways. Though meat consumption has been known to spark heated ethical debates, it seems notably less controversial than the practices behind Canada Goose jacket.
Unless all those who condemn Canada Goose also comprise this vegetarian/vegan minority, this conflict seems to bring nuance to the animal rights debate. When considering the Canada Goose controversy, I am still stuck with the same question: why is it that slaughtering a coyote for its fur is significantly more controversial than slaughtering a cow for its meat?
I think a strong counterargument to this claim is that the coyote fur is superfluous, an unnecessary component of the jacket’s design. Though Canada Goose claims that the fur is essential to the jacket’s functionality, many of the company’s counterparts– The North Face, Patagonia, Burton, alike– have opted for synthetic fur. But if this is the central argument against Canada Goose, it seems that this argument could just as easily be applied to the meat-eating example; a commonly held argument against meat eating is that it is unnecessary. It’s clear by now that a variety of plant based proteins– nuts, soy, among others– are more than enough to sustain the average person’s protein needs. This counterargument in both cases revolves around the same argument– we have alternatives at hand that do not involve the use of animals. But still, the Canada Goose jacket seems bafflingly more controversial than the consumption of meat.
Though I have posed many questions throughout this article, one thing is for certain– the Canada Goose jacket, like many fashion items, is no longer just clothing. It is kindling for heated conversations about our use of animals, and our ethical perspectives at large. And as we have these conversations, it’s important to consider one takeaway from this debate– just because something exists, does not mean it ought to. Perhaps, we should retire the jackets. But if we do, we might just have to give up meat too.