Wearing a down puffer jacket is as cruel as wearing fur

It’s the least talked about form of animal cruelty

It’s widely known that expensive puffer jackets, namely Canada Goose, North Face or Tommy Hilfiger are made using down, a warm material made using goose or duck feathers. But there’s little understanding or awareness of the animal cruelty responsible for making these jackets. Many assume down, which can also be found in duvets or feather dusters, is made from feathers that simply fall off animals. The truth is far from from it.

Down refers to the tiny feathers close to the animal’s body, meaning each feather needs to be plucked out from the animal’s skin one by one. Feathers from live birds are considered more valuable to the feather industry, meaning the majority of birds are “live-plucked” 3-4 times a year. I won’t go into the gruesome details (watch this video if you really want to see), but it’s a painful and horrific process. It involves workers ripping out feathers by the handful, often resulting in torn skin that’s roughly repaired with a needle and thread sans anaesthesia. On top of this, many of the geese used for their down/feathers in are also used to make foie gras.

Some brands like North Face have affiliated themselves with the Responsible Down Standard who safeguard the welfare of animals used. They ensure any brands affiliated with them don’t “live-pluck”, and won’t be force fed for foie gras. However, animals will still be cruelly killed for their feathers.

There are no 100-percent guarantees animal-cruelty is avoided, but the RDS is one of the two strictest industry standards on down, animal welfare & traceability along with the Traceable Down Standard.

Brands like Tommy Hilfiger aren’t officially part of the RDS, but have started to incorporate sustainable down into their supply chain. They say: “The majority of our Fall’16 styles contain certified sustainable down”.

I spoke to Elisa Allen, Director PETA UK to find out more about it and what we can do to help.

Is wearing down as bad as wearing a fur coat?

Opinion polls show that the overwhelming majority of Brits would never dream of wearing real fur, but many shoppers are still unaware of the cruelty inherent in the down industry. PETA’s campaign is changing this situation, and many fur-free designers and retailers – from ASOS to Topshop – are now shunning cruelly obtained feathers, too. Consumers are learning that there is quite simply no such thing as “humane” or “responsible” production of down feathers.

In addition to supporting the horrors of the down industry, a few companies – including Canada Goose – also use real coyote fur to trim their feather-filled jackets. It’s well documented that wild animals caught in steel traps, as coyotes often are, languish for days, suffering from intense pain – and if they aren’t suffocated, bludgeoned to death, or strangled by a trapper, they die of hunger, thirst, disease, blood loss, or predation. Some, especially mothers with babies in their dens, have been known to try to chew through their own limbs in a desperate attempt to escape.

Are fur/down products actually warmer than synthetic ones?

No. With so many high-tech, faux-fur, feather-free materials available today, there’s no reason to slaughter coyotes and birds for outerwear. It’s time for Canada Goose and other brands that still support this needless violence to stop and switch to animal- and eco-friendly faux-fur trims and synthetic down.

Are there any brands which are particularly bad? 

We encourage consumers to contact any brands which continue to exploit animals for profit and let them know that using fur and down is unacceptable. In the wake of a PETA US and PETA Asia investigation which found that workers in China – the source of 80 per cent of the world’s down – pin geese down and rip their feathers out as they struggle and scream, high-street favourites Topshop, Whistles, Miss Selfridge, Warehouse, and White Stuff have promised to keep down out of all their future collections. PETA has also received down-free pledges from Hobbs, Dr Martens, Oasis, Primark, Wallis, Boohoo, and ASOS (its own brand).

What about the brands that are protected by The Responsible Down Standard?

The down industry developed the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) in an attempt to reassure consumers that down from live-plucked birds (or birds exposed to other cruelties) doesn’t make its way into products. In theory, the RDS prohibits live-plucked feathers in certified products, but PETA Asia’s investigators found there are no guarantees. They documented workers on these “responsible” facilities step and pull on geese’s delicate wings and necks, tightly bind the birds’ feet together, and rip the feathers right out of their skin while they struggle and scream. They even caught one facility admitting not only to live-plucking in secret but to deliberating mislabeling live-plucked feathers to fool buyers.

What can people do to stop this?

Compassionate consumers can keep snug and warm in colder months – and help animals – simply by choosing one of the many sustainable vegan products available today. With so many cruelty-free options available that are durable, innovative, and even outperform down and fur when it comes to warmth, there’s no need to use real fur or feathers.

Brands such as Asos (own brand), Dr Martens, Topshop, Whistles and Reiss have already pledged to never use down, view the full list here.