Lots of people wear down jackets or use down comforters and never think twice about where those feathers came from.
Geese and ducks shed feathers, right? When I go to the duck pond they’re flying all over the place!
Well, a Swedish documentary might have you thinking twice before buying more down-filled products. Undercover investigators found birds being plucked alive, instead of the traditional method of cultivating down and feathers: collecting them after the birds are already dead. (Down is the soft layer of feathers closest to the birds skin, valuable because they have no quills.) Veterinarians are calling the stripping of feathers from live birds, which you can see in this video, animal cruelty.
“I would liken it to torture,” said SPCA veterinarian and bird expert Dr. Laurie Siperstein-Cook in an interview with CBS 5 in San Francisco. After watching the live-plucking footage, Dr. Siperstein-Cook said it made her cringe and it must be “horribly, horribly painful.”
Live-plucking causes the birds stress and pain, but it’s more profitable than getting feathers from a dead bird since you can use the animal again and again.
Imagine all your hair getting yanked out in large chunks. Live-plucked geese endure this about every six weeks, from the time they’re ten weeks old until around four years. Geese are used for dishes like the “delicacy” foie gras — .
Although trade group IDFL Labratory and Institute believes the majority of down feathers are cultivated from birds already dead, there’s no way of knowing whether your feathers were a meat by-product, or brutally ripped from a live bird’s flesh. Labels on down jackets and comforters don’t indicate whether the feathers were collected traditionally or harvested from live-plucked birds. And stores that carry down-filled items, like Mountain Hardwear and Ikea, who were featured in the video, don’t typically know where the down came from. Like the Mountain Hardwear merchandising director admits, you couldn’t know unless you were actually on the site.
You can play it safe by choosing an alternative, like these organic cotton duvets and comforters, or a Primaloft one. Or to make it even easier, just look for items filled with polyester, which can be found in any home store.
photo credit: thanks to istock