Down is a common filling material used in fashion and textiles worldwide, and is especially used by fashion brands who cater for winter or outdoor apparel. Down is promoted as the fluffy insulation used from outdoor wear such as puffer vests, to homewares like duvets and pillows.

Did you know that over 600 million geese and over 3 billion ducks are raised for consumption annually? Sadly for many of these birds, their welfare is severely compromised. Here’s a couple of key issues we all need to know before considering a product made with down.

Live Plucking

A goose after she has been plucked alive for her down feathers.

Down is often sourced using the brutal practice of live plucking, a procedure which involves geese being physically restrained while their feathers and down are torn from their skin while alive.

As shown in the video above, live plucking is a painful process, done without any pain relief. It 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 due to the practice. 

“When up to 3,000 geese are plucked by hand in five hours, one can imagine how brutal the handling of these birds can be. They often suffer injuries, wounds that are clumsily treated, without any kind of pain relief.”

– Nina Jamal, Head of Farm Animal Campaigns, FOUR PAWS International

With little consumer knowledge about the practice, down is still popular in clothing and bedding products. For instance, did you know that 40 ducks and geese can be live plucked to make just one duvet? This is a horrific statistic and one that is little known by even the more ethical consumers.

Force Feeding

Live plucking is not the only cruel practice hidden in down production. Down is also sourced from geese and ducks that are force-fed by the foie gras industry.

During 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, and these birds can often be kept in filthy cages during the entire force-feeding period. 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. 

Geese and ducks kept for the foie gras industry are subject to the cruellest conditions. It is the responsibility of brands and retailers to ensure their supply chains are free of such practices. Consumers can play a big role too, by asking brands and retailers the right questions and making informed purchasing decisions.”

Nina Jamal, Head of Farm Animal Campaigns, FOUR PAWS International

To bring consumer and brand attention to the issue of down, in 2014 FOUR PAWS launched the “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 to the challenge, giving consumers kinder options for their purchasing decisions. Check out FOUR PAWS’ award-winning work to help protect ducks and geese in the down industry by visiting 40lives.org

How to Wear It Kind for Ducks and Geese

  • Seek animal-free products. Today many brands like Patagonia, Kathmandu, The Northface and Fjallraven offer insulated jackets without the use of down. These are just as warm and can often be a little cheaper!  
  • If you are set on purchasing a product made of down, at a minimum ensure it is Responsible Down Standards certified. While certifications such as these can provide some assurance, there are so many cozy animal-free alternatives available today, it’s never been easier to shop cruelty-free.
  • And again, if you haven’t already, join the movement, and take the pledge to Wear It Kind today!

Together we can ensure to Wear It Kind and build a movement of people, animal lovers, brands and designers, all working together to create an animal-friendly fashion future!