In December of 2014, at the end of a campaign protesting against the inhumane horse-drawn carriage industry, members of The Critical Cat investigated retailer Capital Iron regarding concerns they carried Canada Goose fur-trimmed coats. Our concern had been raised after protesting with activists of the Vancouver Animal Defense League at Brooklyn Clothing Co. who also sell Canada Goose fur-trim coats. A quick look on the Canada Goose website’s retailer locator revealed Capital Iron and Atmosphere in Victoria as the lone retailers carrying this brand. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that Atmosphere did not carry Canada Goose in their Victoria stores leaving Capital Iron as the only retailer.
It was immediately disturbing the shear amount of Canada Goose fur-trimmed coats that were for sale at their downtown location. We took pictures for documentation and left knowing that we had to bring attention to this community oriented retailer who carried an explicitly inhumane clothing brand. So, we wrote them a letter outlining the substantial work on the issue by the Fur-Bearer Defenders on debunking the “humane” lie promoted by Canada Goose and requesting they stop selling the Canada Goose brand. At this time we also implemented a boycott against Capital Iron, encouraging people to tell them that they won’t shop there anymore if they continue to sell Canada Goose.
Now, Capital iron will tell you that they never got the letter back in December. They apparently received many others, but not ours and until they got wind of the National Anti-Fur Day Protest we held outside their store they said they didn’t even know we had made any request of them. This would mean they did not get our tweets, facebook messages, calls, emails, etc. Whether or not that is true is really irrelevant. We went ahead with the protest and communicated clearly what our message is.
We also decided to start an online petition which displayed our letter to Capital Iron and our request for them to stop selling Canada Goose apparel. This petition to date has been signed by over 25,000 people with over 21,000 of those from within Canada.
Eventually we were able to speak with the owner of Capital Iron Mike Black. He made time to talk to us while he was driving to another appointment, on speakerphone of course. He said he appreciated the respectful and peaceful nature of our demonstrations and reported that he had received our letter. His primary concern appeared to be that they, as a local Canadian company, supported other Canadian based companies which Canada Goose is one of. He asked why we didn’t go after Canada Goose directly? I replied that there were already other, much larger, organizations directing their efforts in that way. Our concern was locally based, as the last retailer of the brand in the city we see Capital Iron as in a position to make a statement about not supporting inhumane practices to match with their community values. To be fair, Mike noted they had stopped carrying a brand of clothing, Joe Fresh, after an earthquake collapsed a building in one of their overseas sweat shops in Bangladesh, killing more than 200 workers and revealing their appalling working conditions globally. in response, I asked Mike if he had seen a coyote caught in a leg hold trap trying to free itself or being killed. He said he had. I went on to ask him how watching that made him feel, and he said that he agreed that it is not the way any animal should go. He agreed at the end of our conversation to bring the issue forward at his next senior management meeting. That has been pushed back from its original date, it is now being held March 18th, 2015.
Okay, so there is some background on how we got here and this blog post. Today I found out that Animal Justice will be taking legal action against Canada Goose for falsely promoting their product as “humane” to consumers. This is a huge action against Canada Goose and the fur-industry itself and brings the point of this blog to a head. Fur is not Fashion, it’s violence.
Below is a Global News story on Animal Justice’s legal action.
There are a lot of reasons why Capital Iron needs to drop Canada Goose. So let’s make it clear why a small, local, community based business doesn’t want to associate itself with this inhumane Canadian clothing brand.
- Being community based means acting in good faith of the values of the community you operate within. Fur is not generally accepted in Victoria as a fashion statement and it is certainly not needed for cold protection in the most mild climate in Canada. From our experience talking to people on the street and the number of petition signatures we have been able to garner, clearly the community does not support fur.
- Wanting to support local Canadian business is one thing, but while Canada Goose products are manufactured in Canada as well as the coyotes killed being Canadian wildlife, they are not a Canadian owned company. They sold off a majority share of their business in 2013 to a U.S. equity firm, Bain Capital, and now only retain a minority share. This was done to be able to market their inhumane brand more effectively across the globe.
- While Capital Iron is a small, but expanding, Island based business who clearly wants to make a profit, Canada goose is a multinational Canadian based organization looking to reap big profits. As mentioned above they have gone from making about 3 million annually to making 300 million annually. That is a lot more coats, which is a lot more fur, which means a lot more dead coyotes. One of the most obvious and persistent problems with Capitalism is how it only seeks to grow to make more profit at whatever cost, with environmental and animal ethics being costly externalities they can push onto the public to clean up. Not exactly local community based values.
- Their Canada Goose fur-trimmed coats are priced around $700-$800. Not exactly something that the community at large is in a position to spring for, especially in Victoria where its main function is vanity. Capital Iron defends they give or sell some of the coats to Island Health doctors who work up north in extreme cold conditions. To that all we can say is that there are perfectly good synthetic alternatives.
- There are alternatives! Many companies including the North Face, Patagonia, etc. have stopped putting fur-trim on their jackets for ethical and practical reasons, and their apparel is worn by people working in extreme conditions. There is no longer a temperature based excuse to support this brand over humane alternatives.
- Coyotes are an important part of a thriving eco-system. Despite claims by farmers and promoters of human encroachment on their traditional roaming territory that they are “pests,” These animals play an important role in balancing eco-systems and where they are killed off in high numbers other problems in wildlife populations may arise.
- Leg hold traps are inhumane. If you wouldn’t put your dog in one rather than have it on a leash, why would you sell a brand that purposefully puts coyotes in agonizing pain and distress to languish for possibly days before being killed. With regulations that state a time frame the traps must be checked, but with practically no enforcement of violations it is unthinkable what these animals must endure for the sake of vanity. Watch Fur-Bearer Defenders video Crying Shame here.
- This is the same colonial exploitation Canada was built on. Many people will fire back at us on the protest line that Canada Goose employs First Nations to do the trapping for them. True, these communities are in need of employment and a living wage. However, how many of those trappers can afford to buy a Canada Goose, the company they work for, jacket at $800. Fur-Bearer Defenders reports aboriginal trappers make roughly $400 per year off the pelts they sell. They may be employed by Canada Goose, but they are being used for their trapping heritage to once again make white people who are disconnected from those communities very wealthy off their labour. We don’t blame the First Nations at all for the position they are in, and this is not about attacking traditional First Nations practices. Canada Goose is the one exploiting them in our eyes for a high-price ticket item they will sell that is anything but traditional, except in the colonial sense.
- Lastly, fur is dead. Millions of animals are killed every year in Canada to make these and other brands of fur aparrel. It is not just coyotes either, much like the fishing industry there is a substantial amount of “by-catch” which can include cougars, lynx, bears, wolves, and other Canadian wildlife. This is because leg-hold traps are indiscriminate in their killing as are the people who kill whatever animal is caught in the trap. With such indifference and devaluation of wildlife it is a wonder how Capital Iron could support such an inhumane practice.
We want to be clear what our position is. We support Capital Iron as a local business that does a lot of community outreach and giving. We could ask them to stop carrying all of their leather products, wool, down, etc., but we know that is not realistic. What is realistic is that a local business do their best to make ethical, humane, and community supported purchasing decisions that don’t hurt their bottom line and to replace products that fall outside these values with viable alternatives. We don’t support the killing, exploitation, or abuse of any non-human animals. Yes, we are vegan and our shoes are not leather. However, we are not asking Capital Iron to drop Canada Goose to match our values, we are asking them to drop Canada Goose to match their own.
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