In 2012, PETA U.S. released footage of workers ripping live geese’s feathers out, a process known as “live plucking.” In the years that followed, companies faced a loss of confidence from consumers, so they came up with international standards claiming to ensure “responsible,” “non live-plucked” down. But when PETA and PETA U.S. recently got inside farms connected to certified and “responsible” companies, we uncovered shocking cruelty that sheds doubt on these standards and disturbing evidence that will shake consumers’ confidence in the word “responsible.”
Did you know that 80 percent of the world’s down and feathers used for items like jackets, sleeping bags, and bedding come from China? PETA and PETA U.S. set out to visit farms across China to see firsthand the various ways in which those feathers are obtained. Investigators saw workers rip geese’s feathers out—leaving open, bloody wounds—while the birds were fully conscious. Many struggled and cried out in terror and pain as their feathers were torn out of their skin, while others just froze, paralyzed with fear.
To prevent the geese from fleeing, workers stepped on their delicate wings and necks and tightly bound their feet together. They even put them in chokeholds while ripping out their feathers, and swung them by their wings. After they were plucked bare, the geese cried out as they ran back to their flocks.
Many geese endure this torture multiple times before finally being slaughtered.
And there was more: Farms left sick and injured chicks, geese, and ducks to die slowly. Dead birds were found decaying in crates and ponds or tossed outside like trash.
Deception and Dishonesty
International certifications, including the “Non Live-Plucked Products Guarantee” and the “Responsible Down Standard” (RDS), are advertised to assure consumers that down and feathers from live-plucked birds do not end up in products.
But when investigators spoke with suppliers for these so-called “responsible” and “non live-pluck” companies, they admitted to buying and selling live-plucked down, and one buyer even bragged about misleading customers.
“The plucking is done in secret; we’re unwilling to pluck openly.”
—Down industry representative
Companies understand that most consumers would never buy live-plucked down if it were openly labeled as such. One industry representative remarked, “We advertised that it’s all plucked after slaughter—nobody dares to buy it if you say it’s live-plucked.” Their solution? Hide and mislabel their live-plucked down so that people will buy it. Another industry representative admitted, “Most of the organizations say live-pluck is forbidden. … So it’s not open.”
‘Responsible’ Practices: Caught in the Act
The RDS—which claims that it “safeguards the welfare of geese”—actually allows RDS-certified companies to buy and sell live-plucked feathers.
On one farm where investigators saw workers rip geese’s feathers out, leaving them bloody, the manager admitted to supplying live-plucked down to The Sea Feather Ltd. Co. in Lu’an—an RDS-certified and Non Live-Plucked Products Guarantee company. Sea Feather sells to Hollander Sleep Products, which sells bedding at Sears and Costco as well as on Amazon.
And while industry giant Allied Feather & Down is RDS-certified, a buyer stated that he can, in fact, purchase live-plucked down from Allied. During a separate visit, eyewitnesses also documented live plucking on a farm whose buyer had previously supplied the company. Allied supplies retailers Eddie Bauer and Lands’ End with down.
Investigators also discovered live plucking at another farm whose buyer supplies Down Decor, an RDS-certified company. When they spoke with the buyer, he repeatedly admitted to dealing in live-plucked feathers. Down Decor also repeatedly admitted to dealing in live-plucked feathers. Its brand DownTek is also sold to Eddie Bauer and Lands’ End.
What’s also troubling is that none of these companies appears to be violating the RDS, which actually allows them to buy and sell live-plucked feathers, making already complex supply chains even murkier and casting even more doubt on the effectiveness of the standards.
Products made with feathers and down from live-plucked birds are exported throughout the world to be sold to unsuspecting consumers. So if you’re considering buying down bedding or a down jacket, sleeping bag, or pillow, please remember the birds who need their feathers and choose a cruelty-free option instead. Join us in giving geese the thumbs-up and giving down the thumbs-down.9 Places Where Down Feathers May Be Hiding