Luxury parka maker Canada Goose Holdings Inc. has announced plans to switch to reclaimed fur in its coats, a move the company says is "not about animal activists" who have fought the company's use of animal products for years.
The Toronto-based retailer announced Wednesday it will start making parkas with reclaimed fur in 2022 and stop purchasing new fur that same year. The company also plans to launch a consumer buy-back program for fur in the coming months.
"Canada Goose has a long-standing commitment to animal welfare, as outlined in our Transparency Standards we do not condone any wilful mistreatment, neglect, or acts that maliciously cause animals undue suffering, and we remain firm in our belief that animals are entitled to humane treatment," said a spokeswoman, in an email.
"Reclaimed fur, sourced through a customer buyback program would be subject to the same standards".
In its first sustainability report released Wednesday, Canada Goose said it has used wild coyote fur from Western Canada and the U.S. for five decades, that it says its suppliers ensure never comes from fur farms, among other measures.
It notes people living in the North have worked with reclaimed fur for decades and the initiative was inspired by their resourcefulness.
"We believe we must operate sustainably. It's the right decision for our business, our customers and most importantly, our future," the report reads, which notes consumers today want more information about fur sustainability and animal welfare, and demand more transparency.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called the change to reclaimed fur an attempt to "'humane wash' its image by switching from fur taken from coyotes whom trappers have recently caught in steel traps to fur that may already be on the market, which is also a product of the cruel actions of trappers."
"Real fur is always cruelly obtained," it said.
The animal rights group has been writing to Canada Goose about its fur use since 2006, said Megan Wiltsie, media co-ordinator, and launched a public campaign against the company at the start of 2016.
That included erecting a billboard near a Chicago store in Oct. 2018 that showed a goose and the text "I'm a living being, not jacket filling." It ran advertisements in various states and staged protests in the U.S. and Canada.
In the fall of 2018, the organization signed a deal with Astral Media to run two advertisements on Toronto bus shelters, one of which featured a photo of a coyote and the caption, "I'm a living being, not a piece of fur trim." Both read "Boycott Canada Goose" .
The ads were scheduled to run for four weeks, but Astral began to take them down the same day they were put up after receiving a single complaint from an advertising agency that works with Canada Goose.
PETA took the matter to court after the city declined to compel Astral to replace the ads, arguing the removal of the ads amounted to a violation of its right to free expression.
The judge sided with Astral and the city, which argued the matter is between private companies based on a commercial contract.
PETA applied for a judicial review, which was dismissed on Tuesday by an Ontario court.
PETA also noted that Canada Goose's switch to reclaimed fur "may conveniently allow Canada Goose to keep selling its fur trimmed coats in California when the state's fur ban comes into effect in 2023."
In Oct. 2019, California's governor signed a pair of bills that would ban the sale and manufacture of new fur products starting in 2023. It is the first state to do so, though Los Angeles and San Francisco both banned sales of fur in their respective cities beforehand.
The ban exempts used products, as well as some other exemptions.
Animal activists at the time said they were working with others to pass similar bills in other cities and expressed optimism that California's move would start a trend.
Canadian animal rights group Animal Justice also noted the California ban, as well as those of several other cities, in a statement that called the Canada Goose change "a stunning reversal." Animal Justice intervened in the Toronto court case between PETA and Astral, and supported PETA's position.
The shift comes as "the result of shifting public attitudes and years of anti-fur advocacy targeting the company," it said.
However, it is still only a "partial victory," according to the group.
"It would be better for the company to abandon fur and down altogether," noting the switch to reclaimed fur doesn't help ducks and geese whose feathers are used for down.
The company addresses its use of down in the report, saying it chooses "natural down in jackets because it is the best natural source for warmth per weight ratio."
Last year, Canada Goose committed to the responsible down standard (RDS) and commits to being certified fully by 2021.
"The RDS aims to ensure that down and feathers come from animals that have not been subjected to unnecessary harm."
RDS prohibits down or feather removal from live birds and force feeding, according to its website. Its standards also include other measures, including auditing each stage in the supply chain by a professional, third-party certification body.
— With files from The Associated Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2020.
Companies in this story: (TSX:GOOS)
Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press