Will Live-Plucking (Ouch!) Make You Say “Down with Down”?

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


Susanne R.
Susanne R6 years ago

What's up with this war on geese? I just read an article about a tradition in Germany where drunk revelers hang geese upside down by their feet and then tear their heads off with their bare hands. And now I learn that they're being plucked down to naked gooseflesh, as they cower helplessly in pain and terror? There has to be a more humane way to make money.

Kevin Derek H.
Kevin Derek H.7 years ago

I say kill 'em, eat 'em and use the down and feathers after the fact.
I don't only use down-filled (the earmest possible insulator on the planet) I manufacture and import them. My down is haversted from food chain animals exclusively and I have no moral issue with that practice. Live plucking is definitely a greedy, bad plan . . . . and as for Beverly that sounds like a sexy weekend activity. Can we hook up sometime soon? Eat some nice juicy steaks and snuggle up in my comfy duvet and watch some action flicks?

Joy Jin
Joy Jin7 years ago

This is so sad. I would never want this to happen to any animals

Pauline Cousins
Pauline Cousins7 years ago

Oh my word, those poor geese, I have never had and never will have any thing filled with goose or even duck down or feathers. Its just a status symbol, the rich showing off their wealth irrispective of the stress, pain and fear these poor birds suffer. Blatent cruelty in a very sadistic for all for a status symbol, yuk

Batya B.
Batya B7 years ago

This is so cruel! This is so unnecessary. There are other ways to keep warm.

Judith H.

Please let all the stores you shop at that you will not buy any down products and ask them to boycott any feather products. It cannot be assured they came from ducks and geese which were not live plucked. Ikea sets the example and will not carry any feather products.

charmaine c.
Charmaine C7 years ago

It's obscene!

Debbie S.
Debbie Spurrier7 years ago

Yet another example of the cruelty and barbarity of the human species. There are neither limits nor ends to the horrific pain and suffering we cause other species to endure for our selfish wants. I can only wonder if we will ever extend any semblance of compassion and empathy to those who find themselves at the mercy of such a despicable animal as the human one. I can only wonder what made us so easily able to disregard the suffering of other sentient beings. Of course anything that makes big money trumps the pain and suffering that is required to keep the keep the money pouring in–such is the bane of the rest of the animals on this planet. We should really try to imagine ourselves in the "shoes" of these poor animals–I have no doubt that few of us could endure the torture. Purchasing any product that relies on the torture and/or death of others, makes one complicit in that torture and/or death.

kerrie b.
kerrie brown7 years ago

I just want to cry.How can human beings be so arrogant?To perform such blindingly obvious cruelty makes me sick ,and sad to say I belong to the same species.There needs to be a world wide education programme to make people aware of the products they are buying and how they are acquired

SANDRA R7 years ago

Very cruel, a barbarity!!!Stop all acts of barbarian cruelty agains innocent animals!!!!