Down consists of the soft super-fine feathers that cover the skin of geese and ducks. Humans have been exploiting birds for their feathers for centuries, and today there is a huge down industry that uses these feathers to fill comforters, jackets, sleeping bags, and pillows. Admittedly, down is the warmest insulating fiber available but it’s very expensive and involves unconscionable cruelties.
Most down today comes from geese who are killed for meat, and it is frequently plucked from birds who are still alive. Live-plucking is so inhumane that it has been banned in the U.S. and Europe. Unfortunately, around 70 percent of the world’s down is produced in China, where live-plucking is legal and laws protecting farmed animals are virtually non-existent.
In 2014, PETA released an undercover investigation documenting the massive cruelties systematically carried out by down producers. The footage shows workers ripping fistfulls of feathers from live, struggling birds.
With all the synthetic fibers available today that can provide both padding and insulation, there is never a reason to buy down. It’s a needlessly expensive and absurdly cruel product, especially in light of the many excellent synthetic alternatives that are widely available. Not only are synthetics cheaper, they’re water resistant and generally don’t require special cleaning.
If you already own down clothing, pillows, or comforters don’t beat yourself up over the purchases you made in the past. The most important action one can take is to spread the word about the cruel practices of this industry and to commit never to purchase down-filled products again.