Photo credit: Sabina Sturzu via Unsplash
Most of us get chills just thinking about Canada’s harsh winters. At temperatures of -25 degrees Celsius, you could say Canada can get a bit…chilly. At this time of year, we see the cold approaching and the shopping season starting. But shopping for winter coats can be tricky—you have to find something you like while putting protection from the cold first. When temperatures start to drop, and colder seasons are rapidly approaching, an important topic is coming up: How to dress for winter while avoiding animal cruelty?
You might be surprised to learn about the violence that hides behind a rather simple winter coat. So before rushing to the mall or opening your laptop to make a purchase, take the time to learn about the ethical options available to you, so you can complete your winter wardrobe the compassionate way.
How the Fur and Down Feather Industry Impacts Animals
In this section, we will explore just two of the several animals by-products used to make winter jackets. Fur and feathers are some of the most commonly used animal by-products when it comes to making warm winter jackets. Fortunately, we don’t have to use these products to have a high-quality, long-lasting, warm, winter jacket.
It’s important to keep in mind that, like most industries, fur farms exist to make a profit. Therefore there is little to no concern for animal welfare. A 2015 PETA-led investigation said that farmers at a U.S. fur farm typically use the cheapest methods of killing like suffocation, electrocution, and gassing resulting in slow, painful, and terrifying deaths for these animals.
Poisoning with hot engine exhaust is a standard method of killing for smaller animals on fur farms. This method sometimes fails to kill the animal, and instead renders it unconscious. Often the animal will regain consciousness while it is brutally skinned alive for its fur.
According to PETA, Swiss Animal Protection International toured a fur farm in China and reported that animals like foxes, minks, and rabbits were shivering in wire cages outside. Some animals even showed severe anxiety, chewing their limbs and throwing themselves against the cages.
A 2005 investigation conducted on Chinese fur farms reported that animals were packed into cages and stacked onto trucks, then thrown from the truck’s top onto the ground below, breaking the animals’ bones.
Some of the animals still had collars on–a sign that they were someone’s beloved companion, stolen to be tortured, brutally killed, and sold for fur. Can you imagine these things happening to your dog or cat?
You might be wondering how such barbaric practices exist. Unfortunately, there are little to no laws that recognize animal welfare and protection on fur farms, meaning the horror animals live on these farms is entirely legal. Some of the most commonly used animals for fur include but are not limited to beavers, chinchillas, foxes, raccoons, minks, rabbits, dogs, and cats.
According to PETA, down is the softest feathers on a bird, which lay closest to the bird’s skin. On the average duck farm, workers begin plucking the bird’s feathers when they are about ten weeks old and continue every six weeks afterward. Plucking feathers causes great pain and distress for these gentle, sentient beings. Ducks and geese are tied or otherwise restrained while their feathers are plucked out from them without any painkillers or anesthetic. Often their skin tears open and bleeds as a result of this process.
Companies have creative ways of marketing their products to make consumers feel good about their purchase using terms like “transparent,” “sustainable,” or “responsibly/ethically sourced.” Unfortunately, these terms are highly misleading, as you will see in a recent investigation on the well-known winter jacket brand, Canada Goose.
Several activists and animal-rights organizations have exposed Canada Goose in recent years. One investigation of a Canada Goose down supplier found the farmed geese crammed into cages, trampling over each other in a panic, some even suffocated. Geese were picked up by their necks and thrown like objects, as they flailed in distress.
A veterinarian who viewed the footage from the investigation said that geese would likely endure painful muscle cramping from being stuffed into crates for prolonged periods, which also predisposes them to injury. According to investigators, the birds were petrified as they watched the others in front of them be shackled and slaughtered one-by-one as they awaited their own dreadful fate. The investigation also reported that some of the geese were left in feces-covered cages without food or water for over 24-hours. While the Canada Goose website asserts that the company avoids unnecessary harm to animals, this investigation proves otherwise.
Alternatives to Fur and Down Jackets
The belief that animal skins and furs are necessary to protect ourselves against the cold is one held by many. While there was a time many centuries ago, when humans had no other option but to hunt animals for protection from the cold, that is no longer the case today. Given modern technological advancements, it is no longer necessary to use animals for warmth, especially considering how modern day capitalism has allowed animal cruelty to reach never-before-seen levels. Today, we have several cruelty-free options to stay warm in the wintertime. So why are we not prioritizing them?
More and more vegan coat companies are proving that our society is asking questions and starting to realize the uselessness of animals in the manufacturing of warm, weather-protective jackets. Several materials easily replace animal fur and feathers, such as faux fur, vegan leather, polyester, plant insulation like bamboo and more.
Faux fur, usually made from acrylic and polyester, is a warm, durable material that can even be recycled when it’s no longer used. In 2016, a French laboratory called EMITECH released a study proving that faux fur was as warm as the real thing. At first, designers used it to make certain textiles like corduroy to create more affordable products. Today, however, it is the opposite: faux fur shows a certain prestige and modernity.
Vegan leather is also a necessary alternative to help animals. Mélissa Lambert, president of the Quebec bag brand Lambert, says polyurethane is the best option when choosing cruelty-free products. We can also think of the pineapple leather mentioned in our article on Bego Vegan Label, which uses plants that would otherwise end up in landfills. (hyperlink our article)
The production of these materials raises a few questions: Are vegan alternatives better for the environment? Are they more ethical? Keep in mind that the production of animal leather is also harmful to the environment. Today, there are still advances in vegan materials in order to reduce their environmental impact as much as possible. For example, some companies, like the first one we are about to share with you in the next section, use recycled plastic to make their coats. If we focus our efforts in the right place, there is always a way to get things done and produce the best possible products.
Some Companies to Consider for Vegan Coats
Several companies in Canada and around the world are creating vegan winter coats that are worth trying out! Today, we are presenting a few to help you when making your next winter coat purchase.
NOIZE is a vegan outerwear company that cares about the environment and animals. They have outerwear for just about every occasion and season, standing out with their vibrant styles and colors. NOIZE uses plastic from recycled water bottles to make some of its durable, quality coats. To start shopping, visit: https://fr.noizeoriginal.ca/.
Ethically Warm is a company that produces its vegan coats here in Montreal. It ensures environmental-friendliness by using biodegradable materials such as cotton and bamboo and works with Montreal seamstress cooperative to create its coats. This company makes sure that they have the least possible impact on the environment: the small amount of plastic they use is recycled. These coats are just as beautiful as they are cozy. To start shopping, visit: https://ethicallywarm.com/collections/all
Save The Duck was founded in 2012 by Nicolas Bargi and is an American company that has established itself worldwide and was B.Corp certified in 2019. Save The Ducks uses a material called PLUMATECH® that mimics down while retaining all the thermal benefits of the real thing. They also have a RECYCLED PLUMATECH® collection, made of polyester from recycled materials like plastic bottles. To start shopping, visit: https://www.savetheduck.ca/en/.
Wuxly is an Ontario company founded in 2012. They use PrimaLoft® Gold for insulation in their coats, a superior alternative to goose down, according to the company. They say it’s superior to goose down because it breathes better – it’s warm without being too big. It will also keep you dry given its impressive 98% water resistance results compared to goose products, which are 0%. To start shopping, visit: https://wuxly.ca/.
Bonus: some companies even offer vegan coats designed for dogs! And remember that some dog breeds need these coats in the winter. For example, Hound Around makes faux fur coats for Italian Greyhounds. So if you have to dress your doggies this winter, make a responsible decision!
Consider a compassionate choice when making your next winter jacket purchase. While fur and feathers do make warm winter jackets, there are several companies out there using vegan, environmentally-friendly alternatives to fur and feathers that will not only keep you warm, but also prevent unecessary animal cruelty. When you feel tempted to hop on a trend, or you feel drawn to a particular coat that uses animal products, just remember that a short-lived trend or desire is an animal’s lifetime of suffering and pain. Helping animals means making small, daily changes that make all the difference in their lives. We must stop and think about how our actions have serious consequences for these sentient beings. As consumers, we have an impact, and we can decide to make changes in the right direction, right now.