Animal rights activists have been targeting a Yaletown clothing shop they say is selling apparel made with animal fur.
A group calling itself the Vancouver Animal Defense League has been holding regular pickets outside Brooklyn Clothing Co. since November, and chronicling the demonstrations on their Facebook page.
Protesters have been demonstrating on Fridays and Saturdays with large placards sometimes featuring graphic images of animal cruelty and performing live simulations of being tortured in a leghold trap.
Tammy Lui of the Vancouver Animal Defense League says the store’s Canada Goose brand jackets with fur trim are causing unnecessary suffering to animals.
“They are 600 dollar jackets, the kind of people who are buying them, are buying them for status symbols,” says Lui. “We are really trying to get through to them that this is causing extreme suffering for the animals and for each jacket, there’s a dead coyote, sometimes two, depending on whether or not they used two pelts, and it’s completely unnecessary.”
Lui says they originally tried to start a dialogue with the store’s owner but felt they had to turn to demonstrating outside the business.
“We originally started a conversation by going into the store, but he disregarded us, we provided him with info, and he said he would get back to us, but he brushed us off. So the logical next step was a protest, to try to pressure him into making this decision,” says Lui.
Brooklyn Clothing Co. owner Jason Overbo says he was initially on the side of the protesters, but once he started to do his own research on Canada Goose, the story began to unravel.
“Their info began to unravel from the beginning. They are telling outright lies, and they have no problem with it, they have no issue about saying anything. They have horrific photos and these horrific images, and they are connecting the dots to Canada Goose but it’s simply not true.”
Overbo says the company is one of the most socially-conscious companies that he deals with.
“Canada Goose is under ridiculous scrutiny, everyone’s watching them; the press, the public, and protesters. They have to be careful, and I believe that they are, but who checks the protesters?”
He says the way the group is conducting the protest is turning people against them.
“The noise, you can hear them four blocks away, it’s crazy. The screaming and shouting, the chasing people down in the street and waving signs at them, screaming at them. There isn’t a lot of sympathy for them, they are just too crazy.”
“I feel like there are people that stay away during the protest, but I’ve had other people walk in and say, I am not leaving without a bag since those people outside have upset me so much,” says Overbo.
A Facebook group called “Friends of Brooklyn Clothing” has popped up, in support of the store.
The page encourages neighbourhood residents to contact the Vancouver Police Department if they are being disturbed by noise from the protests.
An online petition has also sprung up, called “Urge Vancouver Police to Keep Yaletown Protests Legal.”
A Yaletown resident identified as Travis Taylor says on the page that the protests are disrupting the lives of nearby residents.
“I live, literally, right above the Brooklyn Clothing Co. store and enough is enough already. I’ve been woken up on numerous occasions by the protestors on weekends over the past two months, including over the holidays. I respect their right to protest, but I believe they’ve made their point. I’m fact, they are starting to seem petty. They petitioned and the store owner didn’t cave (good for them) and now they won’t let it go.” reads the post from Taylor.
The Vancouver Animal Defense League says on their Facebook page that their protests “have influenced multiple Vancouver-area businesses to remove animal-abusive products in the past, including fur, shark fins and foie gras.”
Lui says Hills of Kerrisdale and Grouse Mountain have stopped selling Canada Goose jackets with fur trim due to pressure from the group and the public.
They say they have collected over 230 signatures in support from multiple passersby during their last three demonstrations.
“We are out there, we are raising our voices, and we are trying to get people to boycott,” says Lui.
“The problem with this is that people regard coyotes as pests, but they are apex predators and an essential part of the ecosystem and are indigenous to North America.”
Canada Goose says on their website that they use coyote fur because the animal is considered a pest.
“We have chosen to use coyote fur because it is highly abundant. In fact, in many regions of North America, coyotes are considered a pest as they attack livestock, endangered prey species, pets and sometimes people,” reads a statement on the Canada Goose website.