For many, the loft and warmth of a down comforter or parka is an expected part of winter. Once considered a luxury, now you can go into any store and they seem to be everywhere – inexpensive and costly ones – by the hundreds. Down isn’t made up of big feathers but of the tiny soft underfeathers closest to the birds’ skin which are great insulators for them and help them maintain their body temperature. Ever wonder where all that down comes from? Some of it is a by-product of the meat industry, but this is probably only a small part of it. Most of it (possibly even 80%) comes from birds who are live plucked – an extremely painful and sometimes paralyzing process. A Swedish investigative documentary showed not only how abusive the practice is but also how widespread it is, and after its airing there was a strong reaction in the EU where live plucking is illegal but not enforced. US Companies which openly get down this way include Laytners, Hungariangoosedown.com, Down and Feathers Company and Absolutecomfortonsale.com, but there are many more that do not disclose where their down comes from. Often live plucking is used as a marketing tool as an alternative to killing the birds. But this is a particularly torturous process and all three of the major down producing countries Hungary, China and Poland use this method to obtain down.
So, if a down comforter, pillow, parka or even gloves are on your wish list this season, maybe you can consider an humane alternative. Thinsulate, Primaloft, Thermolite and Polarguard are all excellent alternate synthetic materials. They are easier to care for as you can wash them in the washing machine and they dry out without lumping. We have used these in our family for years and have been more than satisfied with the quality and comfort of these synthetics. Before you make a down purchase, read this article from the AWI to get all the facts. If you decide to get an humane alternative, many folks, including 75 geese, will thank you for your decision.
Photo credit: Stan Tekila