I love Nicholas Cage. From his melodramatic performance alongside Cher in “Moonstruck” to his laughable screaming of “not the bees!” in “The Wicker Man,” his movies are iconic. While I am excited to see his new film, based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “Colours Out of Space,” at the State Theatre, I highly doubt it will surpass the brilliance of 2004’s “National Treasure.” Like “The Da Vinci Code” for fifth graders, it’s two hours of dumb fun that begin with Sean Bean and Cage, in all his mouthbreathing glory, riding across a sea of snow.

As I watched the movie over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend for the first time in a decade, I was surprised to see Cage and Bean (who somehow survives the movie) wearing bright red Canada Goose parkas. Founded in 1957 as a jacket for Northern Canadians, Canada Goose’s parkas are designed to keep a person alive in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius. In the 1980s, it became the iconic jacket of Antarctic researchers and the first Canadian to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Now, it’s the jacket of the rich and famous.  

The blue and red logo has been seen on dozens of celebrities, ranging from Kevin Bacon and Aubrey Plaza to a topless Kate Upton, who donned one of their parkas on a cover of Sports Illustrated magazine to the delight of teenage boys everywhere. Their parkas not only look like sleeping bags, but are described as “like wearing a sleeping bag” on elite fashion blogs. Even so, the lack of style hasn’t hindered them from becoming the new status symbol among America’s upper class. Most versions are priced at over $1,000 if you get it from a certified seller, the only way to ensure it isn’t a fake stuffed with German Shepard hair. Their increasing popularity has been to the financial gain of past presidential candidate Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Ut., whose former private equity firm, Bain Capital, owns a majority of stock in the company. While I could go on endlessly about these implications alone, the jackets are most infamous for their coyote fur hoods. 

Predictably, people unabashedly wearing fur has brought the ire of PETA, who released a video of distressed coyotes in traps, protesting the company’s fur use. Canada Goose has fired back by saying their trapping of coyotes is in accordance with Canada’s misleadingly named Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS). This agreement allows coyotes to be captured using Duke No. 3 Rubber Jaws, which are banned in the EU for clamping down on the legs of animals, usually breaking them in the process. In the western United States, coyotes are then either shot in the head or bludgeoned to death, usually with a hammer, in accordance with state laws that vary greatly in what they consider humane. Most require a coyote to be trapped and killed within 24 hours, but states like Wyoming only require traps to be checked once every three days. “It’s horrible, to put it mildly,” says wildlife expert Stanley Gehrt in a Newsweek article regarding the controversy around the jackets. The coyotes often experience a mix of muscle damage and dehydration until their eventual death due to exposure to the elements or blood loss.  

Coyotes, which may form monogamous mating pairs like people, are also not subject to a hunting season in most western states, where Canada Goose gets their fur. This is done in most other fur-bearing species to reduce pup deaths, but this courtesy hasn’t been extended to these highly intelligent and social animals. Mother coyotes have even been known to chew their legs off in desperation to get back to their pups. With no way of knowing where the fur comes from, it can only be left to speculation how each jacket hood met its final moments. 

Some environmentalists have thrown their weight behind Canada Goose, citing the Western Coyote’s status as an overpopulated, native invader, thriving in new ranges where humans have extirpated wolves. This is posing an ecological threat to many North American biomes, as coyotes inhabit every single contiguous state in America. Even so, studies have found that areas with two-year coyote removal programs are back at pre-removal numbers within only eight months, indicating that hunting may be nothing more than a nonsense solution with unknown ecological implications.

This isn’t the only thing that puts the company’s claims of “ethical sourcing” in question. The reason their jackets can sustain such low temperatures is due to the fine Canadian Hutterite goose down in the jackets. According to Canada Goose, “Each ounce of down has approximately two million fluffy filaments that interlock and overlap to create insulating pockets of air, which is what keeps you warm.” PETA released another video, showing one of their supplier farms crushing and suffocating its geese as they sent them to a slaughterhouse. Canada Goose says there is no other way to make a jacket that endures arctic temperatures without making synthetic furs and feathers.

While cruel, animal fur and feathers are relatively carbon-neutral compared to manufacturing synthetic alternatives. In order to keep people warm in the coldest places on Earth, the company’s use of animal products may be acceptable. This argument, however, merely justifies the use of animal products in the jackets for Arctic explorers and researchers, not Hollywood celebrities. Sure, researchers and Nicholas Cage need them on their Antarctic expeditions, but do the students that populate the streets outside South University Avenue’s luxury condos? 

While Michigan winters are known for their harshness, they don’t compare to the places where the jackets are necessary. At the University of Michigan, they are status symbols that happen to keep you warm. With ample ethical ways to stay warm in Michigan, there is no excuse to have a fur hood dangling over your face in 2020. At best, wearing Canada Goose supports Mitt Romney and the needless killing of coyotes and geese, and at worst, it supports unspeakable and inexcusable cruelty, making you look less like Kate Upton and more like Cruella De Vil.

Riley Dehr can be reached at rdehr@umich.edu.


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