Down is the soft layer of feathers closest to birds’ skin, primarily in the chest area. These feathers are highly valued by manufacturers of down clothing and comforters because they don’t have quills.
While most down and other feathers are removed from ducks and geese during the slaughter process (during which some birds remain conscious as their throats are cut and they are dumped into tanks of scalding-hot water), birds in breeding flocks and those who are raised for meat and foie gras may be repeatedly plucked while they are still alive.
Plucking causes geese and ducks considerable pain and distress. Their feathers are often pulled out so violently that their skin is torn open, leaving them with gaping wounds that the workers crudely sew up without any pain relief. Plucking may begin when the animals are only 10 weeks old and be repeated in six-week intervals until they are slaughtered at about 4 years old, far short of their natural life expectancy.
Buying down can also support the cruelty of the foie gras industry. Producers of foie gras often boost their profits by selling the feathers of force-fed ducks and geese. These birds already have to endure having tubes rammed down their throats and their stomachs pumped so full of grain and fat that their livers become swollen and diseased, which is how foie gras is made.
You don’t need to buy into such cruelty to stay warm—remove down from your wardrobe and home today.