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Coyote Fur Lined Parkas Raise Hackles Over Their “Sustainability”

Leon Kaye | Wednesday December 22nd, 2010 | 8 Comments

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.


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  • Chris A

    Excellent article. Absolutely no shortage of coyotes, and as he states, we have yet to find a warmer substitute than what mother nature has created. PETA is looking for any angle they can find to get press. Laughable.

  • http://www.bornfreeusa.org otterlver

    So at least the author discloses that he is not an unbiased reporter given his desire to defend his personal clothing choices. However, to add a little balance to the article consider these facts.
    • Compared to a faux fur coat, it takes nearly 3 times more energy to produce a fur coat from trapped animals and 15 times more energy to produce a farmed-fur coat, according to a study by Gregory H. Smith a transportation research engineer at the University of Michigan. Why? Consider at the snowmobiles, ATVs and driving that takes place to check traps – lots of petrol.

    • Environmentally harmful chemicals are use in the processing and tanning of real fur garments to keep them from rotting. In 1991 six New Jersey fur processors/tanners were fined more than 2 million for releasing toxic waste into the environment. Tanneries more than any other business are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list that identifies the priority environmental clean-ups.

    • Traps set to catch wild furbearing animals are notoriously indiscriminate often catching “non-target” animals including threatened and endangered species and domestic dogs and cats. In 2008 a federal judge ruled that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was in violation of the Endangered Species Act for allowing trappers to set traps and snares that catch, injure, and kill Canada lynx, a protected species. The case was filed on behalf of Born Free USA and the Center for Biological Diversity.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Leon-Kaye/726541285 Leon Kaye

      Get a grip. The article was balanced. And if you’re going to come up with stats, link to them. One study verifies the 3x or 15x stat you mentioned. Please.

      • Ed

        The article is not balanced if it doesn’t expose fraudulent information that is perpetuated by marketers and not the factual evidence. In this case the author is quite neglectful.

  • Avery

    Good article. PETA is a horrible organization that does a lot more harm than good when it comes to the general public’s perception of sustainability and environmentalism. Even though it makes no sense, huge numbers of people still lump it all together.

    Still, I’m all for treating animals kindly and steel jaw traps are pretty dang brutal. So for once, I do think PETA may have a point here.

  • P.E.T.

    What a dumba$$ ego-centric politician. His dad must be rolling in his grave.

  • Heather

    Otterliver, your facts are not substantiated. That energy use report you talk about – Have you read it? It is a pampphlet written by an animal rights supporter. The fact thatthat he may have had a job of some sort is totally irrelevent, the report has nothing to do with the university OR The Ford Motor Co. As a piece of research it is rubbish. It lists EVERYTHING neeeded to make a fur coat, but then compares it with a gallon of oil which it seems to assume goes “pop” and you have an instant fur coat. Does not mention the oil extraction, the chemical factories required, the extreme temperatures and pressures required the very nasty by products and pollutants at all stages of production. It is just ridiculous. Have a read of the pamphlet some time and have a good laugh. http://www.gan.ca/campaigns/fur+trade/factsheets/fur+:+a+waste+of+energy.en.html

    It doen’t compare like with like. It makes huge assumptions, leaves out tons of relevent figures, draws spurious conclusions, and has never been peer reviewed. Why? – because it is not a “scientific” paper, but written by a biased animal rights supporter who just happened to have a job with the Ford Motor Co.

    As for the chemical pollutant argument – Far, far more horrendous and polluting chemicals are involved in the production of synthetic clothing (faux fur). There are laws forbidding polluting the environment with waste. Just because one company breaks the law doesn’t mean you shut down or castigate the whole industry, otherwise oil production should be shut down after the Gulf of Mexico fiasco.
    have a read of this http://www.p2pays.org/ref/12/11259.pdf.

    Just do some research before repeating parrot fashion the ridiculous and untrue rhetoric of the more extreme animal rights groups

  • Fur-Real

    Anyone ever heard the word tanning? You mention petroleum but not how the coats are treated. How do you think they keep those coats from rotting? How do you think they go and check the traps they set? No use of petroleum my …. you get the point. You guys let me know if this article isn’t scientific enough for you. :/

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/38836299/Toxic-Fur