In a flap that has probably left the family wondering why they did not have their Christmas picture snapped at the closest Sears Portrait Studio, a Canadian Member of Parliament has taken heat for sending photographs of his family with everyone in fur-trimmed parkas.
Justin Trudeau, son of an iconic former Prime Minister of Canada, has been savaged by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for his family’s holiday mug shot. While some may think getting attacked by PETA is like being gummed by a salamander, the flap (the controversy, not the hood on the coats), probably has given MP Trudeau a bigger headache than he would have liked over the holiday season. PETA has denounced the use of coyote fur because of the way the animal rights organization claims the coyotes are hunted: with steel-jaw traps. The response from the company who manufactures the parkas, Canada Goose, has replied that its use of coyote fur is “sustainable.”
The debate over Fur-Gate brings up one question. Is the use of coyote fur—getting past the ethical issues or non-issues—really sustainable?
Sustainable and sustainability are two words that may quickly grow as tiresome as “green” simply because it has different definitions for different people, causing plenty of confusion in the meantime. Just as plunking a “green” label on a product hardly means its green, “sustainable” has become the new word for lazy marketers in appealing to consumers who are becoming more discerning about the environmental effects of the products they purchase.
So as far as whether Canada Goose’s use of coyote fur in its clothing line is sustainable, the answer would have to be yes. Coyote numbers in Canada are in no danger of declining, they are resilient species, and they breed quickly. So if your definition of sustainability is a balance with nature, you would have to agree. If your definition is “maximum utilization,” i.e. completely using the animal from nose to tail, then the meaning of the word gets about as grey as the fur lining a Canada Goose coat. No word on whether the suppliers, most of whom live in the far north of Canada, and who source the coyote fur for Canada Goose, use the meat (which is rumored to be sweet, and not as stringy and rubbery as dog) . . . or use the bones for amulets, jewelry, or art.
Finally, in comparing the use of fur to synthetics, the use of coyote fur would have to qualify as sustainable as well. You have no use of petroleum, no recycling (which does use energy), and the truth is, fur is the best material to keep warm, which is why folks who live in far north often wear hats made of fur. Once you have a fur cap, you cannot go back to synthetics, even if you look like an extra in a Cold War-themed thriller.
As for whether it is right to use animals, that is an animal rights debate, not one for sustainability.
Leon Kaye, a part-time writer for Triple Pundit, swears by wool and a fur-lined parka that took him through Eastern Europe one winter, and only did not return with a fur hat from his latest trip only because there was no room in his luggage.