The Sad Side of Down

Warmth is essential to human life. We thrive in warm climates and moderate our homes and clothing to insulate and protect us from the elements. If you’re considering buying a product stuffed with down or body feathers, the first thought on your mind probably isn’t: “Where (or rather whom) did these feathers come from, and do I want to be supporting the industry that ‘harvested’ them?” After learning about the animals involved in the down and feather industry, you might consider making your household and clothing feather free.

‘Down’ is the undercoating of waterfowl (goose, duck or swan) and consists of light, fluffy filaments growing from a central quill point, thereby creating a three dimensional structure which traps air and gives down insulating ability. Down is designed to help keep waterfowl warm, but it is now commonly used and promoted as a “natural” stuffing for warm clothing and bedding for humans instead.

Although the majority of feathers come from China, they are also “produced” in Hungary, Poland, Turkey, the European Union and the U.S. Ducks and geese are not raised solely for their feathers and down though. They are raised and used instead for eggs, meat or foie gras*. Purchasing down products directly supports these industries. It takes the down from approximately 75 + birds to make an average comforter.

I will not go into great detail about how feathers are harvested, as it might be hard for most people to digest. I will however say that there are 3 methods commonly used all of them barbaric and inhumane.

Although argued by some that the majority of down feathers are cultivated from birds already dead, there’s no way of knowing which method was used for your feathers as labels on down jackets and comforters don’t indicate whether the feathers were collected traditionally or harvested from live-plucked birds.

You can play it safe by choosing an alternative, such as an organic cotton duvet. Or to make it even easier, just look for items filled with polyester, which can be found in any home store.

Jenny Hildebrand

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