Down with Down

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

2 thoughts on “Down with Down

  1. Please remove your reference to Cuddledown from this blog. If you go to the AWI article you will see that they have removed Cuddledown from their article. They made a mistake in mentioning Cuddledown, have appologized for their error, and will be printing a retraction in their next newsletter. Cuddledown only buys down from processors who have pledged not to source their down from live plucking.

    Furthermore, there is much evidence to suggest that the volume of down coming from live plucking is very small. Read http://www.idfl.com/articles/IDFLLivePlucking11Feb2009.pdf
    for an alternative perspective to what is being promoted by AWI. IDFL is a respected independant testing laboratory that works around the world and has a gathered a lot of information on this topic. Sure, there are farmers that are abusive to their animals in the food industry, but most people would not participate in this sort of torture – certainly not the 80% that you speculate. Ducks and geese are raised throughout the world for food, and down is a by-product much the same way that leather comes from cows. The birds are raised and killed for their meat, and the down is collected. The torturing of farm animals is not the routine part of goose farming that your article suggests. Responsible manufacturers and retailers like Cuddledown that are asking questions from their supply chain are working to create an incentive for EU law to be enforced.

    1. Thanks for bringing this to our attention – we have removed Cuddledown from the blog post. We appreciate your letting us know that your company does not use live plucked down and appreciate your letting us know how you source down.

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