It’s fall. The weather is cooling off, and you want to get cozy. Dreaming of curling up under a down comforter? Thinking of sporting a down-filled jacket or vest? Think again.
Feathers in clothing or bedding are an oft-forgotten animal product. Many people don’t think about the way down and feathers from ducks, geese and chickens are harvested. Often, they’re slaughterhouse byproducts–and profitable ones! Sometimes, they’re even plucked from still-living birds.
Not all countries live-pluck birds, but Hungary and China are two that do. Plucking is painful for the birds, who often undergo the process many times. Egg-laying geese must endure being plucked 5-15 times in their short lives–before they’re sent to slaughter. Geese raised for meat are killed much younger and are plucked about 4 times.
Birds are raised in crowded conditions and when it’s their turn for plucking, they’re caught and held down. The forceful plucking leaves their exposed skin raw, bruised and bloody. I can’t imagine someone yanking out the hair on my head, but that’s what it must feel like.
Even ostriches suffer from plucking. Their feathers are used for decorations, feather dusters, and boas. And roosters are raised and killed for so-called fashionable hair accessories–I’ll write a separate post about that soon.
Money from the sale of down and feathers lines the pockets of foie gras producers and companies that confine birds for their eggs and kill them for their meat. They’re not simply a byproduct.
Fortunately, synthetic options are available–and they’re superior to down! So next time you’re looking for a sleeping bag, comforter or parka, make sure to avoid ones made with real feathers. Primaloft, Thermal R and Omni-Heat are examples of high-tech, synthetic materials that trap in heat and keep you warm.
Patagonia, Marmot, Columbia and Northface are just some brands that carry coats made of those materials. But be sure to check the labels–not all the coats they carry are down-free. That’s why I particularly love Vaute Couture, an all-vegan fashion house with really warm wool- and down-free coats.
Most departments stores and specialty shops carry a variety of comforters. Ask for a synthetic option or check the labels before you buy so you–and the birds–can rest well.
- Vegan Peace article about down and feathers
- Peta article about down production
- Peta article about feather hair extensions