A shocking documentary series has revealed that many duvets are stuffed with down plucked from live geese, a practice that causes acute suffering. WSPA is extremely disturbed by this fresh evidence about the global down industry.
The first programme, shown on Swedish television channel TV4 on 1 February, revealed that millions of birds are plucked alive every year in Europe alone.
The figure is even higher in China, the world’s largest producer of down and other feathers. China exports to a number of European countries where the down is used in duvets, pillows and jackets.
Regardless of the origin of the feathers, the consequences for the geese are clear: they are tormented and badly stressed during the plucking process. WSPA is strongly opposed to the plucking of live birds.
The footage – which is extremely distressing – can be viewed on the TV4 website (1 min 18 seconds into the programme).
Mike Appleby, Chief scientific advisor for WSPA, comments on the TV4 footage:
“Disturbing as this evidence is, it serves to expose the cruelty behind the ‘comforting’ image of goose down. The series proves that live plucking of geese is current, and highlights the falsity of the claim sometimes made, that plucking is restricted to breast feathers at the time of the reproductive cycle when the feathers become loose. The footage showed all body feathers being ripped off, including from the neck and back where down is minimal.”
He concludes: “WSPA is strongly opposed to the plucking of feathers and down from live ducks and geese, regardless of which country this occurs in. This practice causes extreme pain and distress to the birds as is evident by the bleeding from their follicles and the apparent fear paralyses exhibited by the birds.”
Farms use this method primarily because it is more cost effective. While a dead goose can only be plucked once, a live goose can be plucked up to four times before it is slaughtered.
Chief Veterinary Officers must act
The documentary showed live plucking in Hungary, despite the country having ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes. The convention recommends the plucking of feathers and down from live birds be prohibited.
WSPA is urging the Chief Veterinary Officers of all countries allowing live plucking – including Hungary – to stop the abusive treatment of geese at once.
Can consumers make a difference?
There is a good chance that the products made from goose feathers plucked from live birds do end up in the UK. As an animal friendly consumer it is nearly impossible to find out if the down in duvets and jackets comes from a factory that mistreats birds.
The only completely secure solution is to avoid down products completely. There are several synthetic alternatives on the market such as Thinsulate, Polarguard, Fiberfill and Qualofill.