By Alisa Mullins
Those puffy down parkas lining store aisles this holiday season may look warm and cozy, but they hide a chilling secret: cruelty to ducks and geese.
Down is often obtained from birds who are “live-plucked.”
Workers grab them by the wings or neck, pin them to the ground and rip their feathers out by the fistful.
Some birds sustain bloody, gaping wounds, the worst of which are sewn up using a needle and thread —without any painkillers.
Many endure this abuse several times before finally being slaughtered.
Some down retailers, including luxury-outerwear maker Canada Goose, claim to use down only from birds who were slaughtered for their flesh, but not only is this difficult to prove, it is a hollow assurance, as a recent PETA exposé revealed.
Earlier this fall, PETA eyewitnesses recorded workers at Canada Goose supplier James Valley Colony Farms (JVC) in Manitoba rounding up geese for transport to slaughter, and the process hardly resembled the “tender, loving care” described by a JVC manager in a Canada Goose promotional video.
Workers herded the panicked birds into pens, where they piled up in the corners in their frantic attempts to escape.
Geese on the bottom of the piles were crushed, and at least one died. Workers grabbed the birds by the neck — often two in each hand — and hauled them to transport crates as they screamed and flapped their wings in distress. One worker repeatedly stepped on geese.
They were crammed into the crates with such force that the metal can be heard clanging in the video. Some geese were left in the crates — which were so small that the birds were unable to raise their heads — for up to 24 hours without food or water.
At the slaughterhouse, a PETA observer saw some birds flap their wings and move their heads after their throats had been cut, a sign that they may have been conscious. About half the birds from JVC had bruises on their wings — or even dislocated joints or broken bones — apparently as a result of being caged or roughly handled.
It may have been arguable that all this suffering was “necessary” in 1817, but in 2017, with so many high-tech insulators available, the case for down is all wet.
The North Face’s innovative down alternative Thermoball — which is constructed of lightweight clusters that mimic down and offer superior warmth — is so popular that it now outsells down.This year, the outdoor brand launched Ventrix, which is featured prominently in stores as “the next evolution of synthetic-insulation technology.”
Patagonia boasts that its faux down, PlumaFill, works better than feathers, with the best warmth-to-weight ratio the company has “ever achieved—down or synthetic.”
Cruelty-free outerwear maker Save The Duck uses only Plumtech™ — an alternative to down made with high-density recycled polyester fibers — which is lightweight, durable, packable and machine-washable and allows for easy movement.
After learning about the cruelty involved in down production, numerous companies have sworn off feathers completely, including The Coleman Company — the world’s leading outdoor-gear manufacturer — European outerwear brand Napapijri, Dr. Martens, Miss Selfridge, Topshop and many more.
And home-goods retailers, including Pottery Barn, West Elm, Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel and The Land of Nod, are now offering alternatives to down for nearly every item.
Humane, high-performance down-free insulators make it easy to remember our feathered friends when shopping for holiday gifts and to extend peace to geese by giving down the thumbs-down.