Canada Goose faces wrath of animal rights activists as it opens more stores
Activists promise a 'loud' protest this afternoon at the company's new NYC location
The protesters' signs are hard to ignore: A picture of a Canada Goose coat with coyote fur trim, placed next to a photo of dead coyote, or a distraught live one caught in a leg-hold trap.
"People don't realize the cruelty," says animal rights activist, Jacinta McDonnell. She and a handful of fellow protesters stand ground outside a busy Toronto store selling the trendy jackets.
"It's abhorrent," comments passerby Brenda Lazare about the coats. However she says her 13-year-old daughter would love one.
As full-length minks fall out of fashion, anti-fur activists have found a new target: Canada Goose. Their big beef is the coyote fur used to line jacket hoods.
Founded in Toronto, the winter apparel company sold a majority stake to a U.S. private equity firm in 2013 to help expand its international market.
As the company's jackets grow in popularity, so does the anti-Canada Goose movement.
The company claims real fur helps better protect faces from frostbite. It also says it doesn't condone "any willful mistreatment" of animals and buys only from licensed trappers.
"Canada Goose remains deeply committed to the responsible use and ethical sourcing of all animal materials," said spokesman Josh Zeliger in an email to CBC News.
Animal rights activists argue there's nothing ethical about the fur trade.
"It's [leg-hold] trapped, the animals freeze, starve to death, sometimes chew their legs off to get back to their families," claims McDonnell. And if the trapped coyote manages to survive, the trapper shoots it dead, she says.
McDonnell's make-shift protest is small and peaceful. But activists say they're about to ramp it up.
"We're going to be going really hard after this company. This is our main target this year," declares NYC animal rights activist Rob Banks.
He has organized a protest Thursday afternoon at Canada Goose's grand opening of its new standalone store in New York City.
"It's on a very busy street and we're going to be very loud."
Banks blames Canada Goose for bolstering the fur industry by sparking a fur-trim trend. "If we can knock this company down, then we're really going to see a dent" in the industry, he says.
Last month, PETA protesters hit the opening of the company's first standalone location in Toronto.
The international animal rights group also plans to make an appearance on opening day in NYC. PETA says its protest will include members lying on the ground with their arms caught in leg-hold traps. They'll also be wearing "bloodied" Canada Goose jackets.
"It's time for Canada Goose to stop supporting this needless violence and switch to animal and eco-friendly faux-fur trim," said PETA spokeswoman, Catie Cryar.
"This is just the start of it," promises Banks. He says that he and fellow activists plan to protest outside Canada Goose's NYC store a few times a week.
Already, a coalition of animal rights groups called NYC United for Animals is planning a second protest at the store this Sunday.
Even celebrities get hit
Celebrities have also become a target. In August, comedian Amy Schumer was bombarded by a handful of protesters at a book signing in NYC.
They crashed the event chanting, "Fur trade, death trade."
In the past, Schumer has been photographed wearing a Canada Goose jacket.
Banks says he was part of that protest. "We just kind of went up there and let everyone know that she's promoting an industry that tortures and murders animals for nothing more than a fashion statement."
According to celebrity news website, TMZ, a rep for Schumer said she got the jacket as a gift, and had already stopped wearing it after learning about allegations that the company harms animals.
Banks believes the protest was still a success because Schumer let the world know she no longer wears her coat "after finding out the cruelty behind that brand."
Will protests hurt the brand?
CBC News asked Canada Goose about the ongoing protests. Spokesman, Zeliger responded in reference to PETA, stating that the group "has sought to mislead consumers through a series of attacks" that ignores the company's commitment to "a responsible use of fur."
Canada Goose's sales remain strong, climbing by a whopping 450 per cent since 2011.
But the activism could have some effect. "I think it's pretty sad, it's not very ethical," says Sam Safiyari after observing the Toronto protest.
He learned about Canada Goose's use of fur from animal rights groups on Facebook and says he would probably never buy one of the jackets.
But Neil Smith, who owns a Canada Goose coat, is not fazed by the campaign. "It happens to have fur but I didn't buy it for that."
Instead, he says he made the purchase because he believes in the product.
"It's a nice quality jacket. I like that it's warm."
Animal rights groups like PETA also take issue with the down stuffing in the coats, claiming it's supplied by ducks and geese that are "violently killed" and then plucked.
Canada Goose says it only buys down that's a by-product of the poultry industry.