Duck and Goose Down
The majority of the world’s duck and goose down comes from live-plucked birds in China, Poland and Hungary. Roughly 80 percent of the down market comes directly from China. If you’re thinking about purchasing a down-filled product, you may want to think again knowing the severe pain and suffering that live-plucking causes birds. The best way to end live-plucking of ducks and geese is by purchasing a down-alternative, synthetic insulated product or certified cruelty-free down product. One that is made from synthetic insulation materials that provide the same warmth yet offer superior benefits to animal-based down. By choosing to vote for cruelty-free products with your pocketbook, you will be voting to end the live-plucking of ducks and geese and you will be voting for the animals!
Live-Plucking Ducks & Geese, Fully Conscious
To get the soft, high-quality down that fills comforters, parkas, jackets, pillows and sleeping bags, it means painfully ripping out the thickest and deepest “plumage” located underneath the feathers from the chests of live, fully conscious ducks and geese while forcibly pinning them down upside down—every 6-8 weeks. That down coat or comforter perpetuates incredible pain, cruelty, terror and deep abuse of innocent animals. This rapid and forcible feather removal from live ducks and geese not only is extremely painful for the bird, but causes severe tissue injury and damage that elicits screams of pain and the struggle to try to free themselves. The plucking terrorizes them and results in stress-induced broken limbs and torn ligaments. Birds cannot breathe when pressure is applied to their chest, so in addition to the severe pain that is caused, they experience being smothered and suffocated. To restrain the birds, workers tie up their legs, and often step on their delicate wings, and even put them in choke-holds while ripping out their feathers. This cruel procedure is done up to six times a year, and as PETA estimates, it amounts to 250,000 live-pluckings per year (for every feather that is pulled out)—and every time, they experience terror and pain. Farms will often leave injured and sick ducks and geese to die a slow death, they are considered “waste.” Veterinarians and breeders call live-plucking extremely and deeply cruel. Since “live-rippers” are paid by the weight, they work as fast as they can, completely insensitive to their injuring the bird and causing them so much suffering.
Geese develop their first full coat of down and feathers at roughly two months of age, then molt each year. They can live up to 20 years, but farmed geese and ducks are killed at only 2-3 years. Geese who are “farmed” to produce down are live-plucked at 10 weeks of age, then subsequently every two months before they are slaughtered. After being live-plucked for 1-2 years, they are often painfully force-fed grain with a large tube forced down their throats for “foie gras” production for another year, before they are finally slaughtered.
Be careful of companies like Eddie Bauer, Lands’ End, and Hollander Sleep that sells products to Sears, Costco and on Amazon—that claim their down is “responsible” and not “live-plucked” but during 2017 investigations conducted on several farms, revealed shocking cruelty to the birds and that their suppliers DO live-pluck birds for down, despite their claim otherwise.
Lack of Animal Welfare Regulations
Approximately 60 – 90 percent of the world’s down market comes from live-plucked birds, as reported by the Kalla Fakta Report, also verified by IKEA who conducted their own independent research study. The practice of live-plucking is illegal in the U.S., but the Animal Welfare Institute reports that live-plucking still happens in the top three down-producing countries including Poland, Hungary and China, and is also done in France, where the geese and ducks are also force-feed for “foie gras.”
Cruelty-Free Down Alternatives
There are many excellent, warm, soft and cruelty-free alternatives to duck and goose down that are superior to and offer greater benefits than down. With cruelty-free synthetic alternatives you get the added benefits of easy maintenance, machine washable, 100-percent hypoallergenic, allergy-free fiber, longer lasting, year-round comfort during all seasons, stable and even fill that doesn’t shift like down will, more affordable and added features like extra light weight.
Most down-alternatives are made from man-made materials though some can come from natural fibers. You want to look for synthetic insulation like PrimaLoft®, Polarguard, Thinsulate™, Thermore, MicroMax, Polyfill, MicroCloud and tencel, or look for the words polyester, microfiber, or synthetic insulation that provides the same heat-preserving qualities as down. But you can also consider natural fill fibers for comforters or coats that use organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, modal, and Ingeo (corn fiber) or even wool to insulate, however, we don’t advocate for wool because it’s not cruelty-free. You can also avoid animal welfare issues by buying “pre-loved down,” or second-hand down that you may be able to find in thrift shops, consignment stores or online consignment or on eBay.
What to look for? Search for words like down alternative, synthetic down, polyester fill, synthetic insulation, or the words polyester, microfiber, organic cotton or hemp insulation, in front of the product you are looking for.
Most recreational jackets and sleeping bags today are made from high-tech synthetic fibers that are very warm, water-resistant, wind resistant, dry faster, wick away moisture, breathe better, are machine washable and are hypo-allergenic—unlike their down counterparts. One major disadvantage for down is when it gets wet it’s very slow to dry, and needs to be put in a dryer.
Ethically-Sourced Down or “Humane Down” – Does it Exist?
There are a few companies today that avoid live-plucking ducks and geese, and instead source more humanely from suppliers that hand collect down from the nests of moulting geese, or the Eider sea duck. It’s called “ethically-sourced down” and it is cruelty-free but it comes at a much higher price and sometimes though “certified” with a certification, it may indeed still come from a supplier how is not honest about the source of the down.
Despite international certifications including the “Non Live-Plucked Products Guarantee” and the “Responsible Down Standard” (RDS) that assures consumers in marketing that down and feathers do not come from live-plucked birds—they often indeed do. RDS claims to “safeguard the welfare of geese,” but actually admitted they allow RDS-Certified companies to buy and sell live-plucked feathers. When investigators visited farms in China, where 80 percent of all down comes from, suppliers admitted to buying and selling live-plucked down and misleading consumers. So this label is fraudulent advertising misrepresenting its certification. And retail stores admit that when checking their suppliers, suppliers will often lie to them about the feathers’ origin and keep the fact that the down comes from live-pluck birds in secret, making honest investigations back to the source very difficult.
What You Can Do to Help
- Choose only cruelty-free alternatives to down – Look for outerwear and bedding that don’t use down
- Tell Retailers To Ditch Down! – Please sign the petition from PETA to Eddie Bauer, Lands’ End, and Hollander Sleep Products that sells to Costco, Sears and on Amazon, to stop using Live-Plucked Birds
- Share This Page on Social Media – Please share this information with everyone you know to inform them about the cruelty of down, and the synthetic cruelty-free alternatives that are readily available.
Where to Find Cruelty-Free Bedding
For bedding, look for high-quality down-alternative synthetic comforters, pillows and blankets at big box retailers including JCPenney, The Company Store, Target, Kmart, Khol’s, and on Amazon and Overstock.
These brands all manufacture quality synthetic insulated bedding: Hotel Collection, The Company Store, LL Bean Home, Lands’ End, Pottery Barn, Cuddledown, Chezmoi Collection, Superior, Natural Comfort, and Martha Stewart Collection.
If you live in Australia, here are some excellent options for you: BedsOnline who offer a great range of microfiber products; Bambi with comforters made from Bamboo, cotton, Ingeo and Tencel; and MicroCloud, an Australian-owned company using MicroCloud in their bedding.
- How To Choose a Synthetic Comforter, by Cuddledown
- Best Down Alternative Comforter (Top Picks & Buying Guide), the Best Mattress Topper
- What to Look For When Buying a Down Alternative Comforter, Down Linens
Where to Find Cruelty-Free Outerwear
Here are some retailers and brands to checkout that sell highly rated synthetic insulated winter jackets and coats not made from down. The North Face makes jackets using Primaloft® insulation products. Patagonia also has a high-tech range of jackets with Primaloft® and other fill. Marmot uses a polyester-based proprietary insulation in their garments and sleeping bags. Columbia Sportswear also uses a propriety brand of thermal insulation. Other manufacturers and retailers include: REI, Outdoor Research, Black Diamond, Mountain Hardware, Arc’Teryx, Fjallraven, and RAB.
More Information on Synthetic Insulated Jackets
- The 8 Best Winter Jackets of 2016 That Aren’t Made with Down, by Outside Magazine
- Best Synthetic Down Jackets of 2017, by Gear Patrol
- A Guide to Insulated Winter Jackets That are Not Made With Down, by One Green Planet
- Backpackers Guide to Synthetic Insulated Jackets, by Backpackers.com
- The Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets of 2016-2017, by SwitchBack Travel
- Vegan Insulated Jackets, by Vegan Outdoor Adventures
More to Read
A Foul Truth Behind the Down in Pillows and Comforters, CBS News/Moneywatch
Exposed: Despite “Responsible Down Standards” Farms Still Live-Plucking Geese, PETA Investigations
Gaping Flesh Wounds, Birds Crying in Pain: The Barbaric Reality Behind the Fashion-Forward Feathers on Your Winter Coat,
Live-Plucking of Geese and Eider Ducks for Down, United Poultry Concern (UPC)
Down Comforters: Animal Cruelty Depending Upon Where You Buy, Huffington Post
Can Down Be Ethical or Green?, TreeHugger.com
Sleep Like A Log in Vaude’s Tencel Sleeping Bags, TreeHugger.com