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Down



Down is considered a primary material for many major brands worldwide, and is a common feather used in fashion and textiles, especially those brands who cater for winter or outdoor apparel. Down is promoted as the fluffy insulation used in both trendy outdoor wear such as puffer vests, to luxury homewares like duvets and pillows.  

Down is sourced, however, through the brutal practice of live plucking. 

Live plucking involves geese and ducks being physically restrained while their feathers and down are torn from their skin while they are alive.  

The painful process, done without any pain relief, leaves the birds wounded and in some cases, with broken wings as a consequence of rough handling. The birds can also suffer fear and extreme distress at the practice.  

Up to 3000 birds may be plucked by hand in just five hours. They often suffer severe injuries, and their wounds are clumsily stitched, without any kind of pain relief. 

Down is still very popular in the clothing and bedding products, with little consumer knowledge about the practice.  

For instance, 40 ducks and geese are live plucked to make just one duvet. This is a horrific statistic and one that is little known by consumers.  

Live plucking is not the only animal welfare problem that may be hidden in down, with the same animals also being force fed to produce foie gras (fatty liver) on some farms.  

In this brutal practice, a tube is forced down the animals’ throats to pump a large amount of feed directly into the animal’s stomach. This is repeated 3 to 4 times a day for up to three weeks, whilst the animals are kept in cages. The procedure results in the animal’s liver swelling 10 times bigger than normal, causing severe health problems with some animals dying during the process.  

The welfare of geese and ducks is severely lacking, with many consumers simply unaware of their brutal treatment in the production of luxury clothing and bedding apparel.  



To bring consumer and brand attention to the issue of down, in 2016 FOUR PAWS launched its “Cruelty Free Down Challenge” to encourage outdoor brands to adopt stricter standards for their down feather supply chain and to show consumers which retailers are leading the way in phasing out these cruel practices.

In a positive response, many brands have signed up including The North Face, Patagonia and Kathmandu, giving consumers more options for their purchasing decisions.

Check out FOUR PAWS’ award-winning work to protect ducks and geese by visiting 40lives.org.  


What should an ethical consumer do?
 

FOUR PAWS calls on consumers to consider the source of the down before buying any such products.  

When buying down duvets and pillows you should always check very carefully where the down comes from. Of course, the best way to avoid animal cruelty is to do without animal products altogether. These days there are excellent plant-based and synthetic alternatives – you’ll hardly notice any difference in comfort levels compared to down. 



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