Down Feather Industry 


Down feathers are the soft, fluffy, inner layer of feathers grown closest to the bodies of many birds. These feathers insulate their bodies and help regulate temperature. Mother ducks and geese provide softness and warmth to their babies through these special down feathers on their bellies. Like all feathers, they are crucial to birds’ ability to stay comfortable and buoyant on the water and in the air. In the down industry, these feathers are removed from their bodies and used in a variety of different products for humans, ranging from blankets to couch cushions to jackets. 

A Muscovy duck lines her nesting box with her own down feathers, which will help insulate her eggs and ducklings.

Source: Shutterstock


Down feathers are collected in three different ways. Some companies remove feathers from the dead bodies of slaughtered birds, some rip the feathers out of the birds while they’re alive (“live-plucking”), and some collect molting feathers from birds farmed exclusively for this purpose. At least 75% of down comes from ducks, and the vast majority of global down feathers are sourced from China, where the duck meat and foie gras trade are a significant part of the economy. 

Pekin ducks, the largest and friendliest breed of domestic duck, are used in 90% of the duck meat trade. They are often cramped together by the thousands in one building. The cage bars dig into their sensitive feet, and their eye feathers are stained from the inability to wash themselves. They rarely live more than a few months.

Source: Shutterstock


While there is an increasing push for down companies to boycott live-plucked birds, the practice is still popular in China. In this industry, ducklings and goslings as young as 10 weeks old will experience their first live-plucking. At this age, these birds are still peeping and have not yet grown their adult feathers. While geese can live thirty years or more, they are typically killed at 5 years after numerous plucking sessions. Investigations from PETA show that live-plucking procedures leave geese screaming and paralyzed, often left with large gaping wounds that are sewn by workers with a needle and thread. This stress even causes many birds to die during the plucking. They are continuously tortured with this practice throughout their short lives, as plucking happens yearly in accordance with the molting schedules of the birds. Birds who are not live-plucked are most likely in the duck meat and foie gras industries, where they are killed even earlier at just 7 weeks old. 

The corpse of a duckling has their down feathers plucked from their body. Birds often bleed as their feathers are removed, causing severe trauma, injury, and even death.

Source: Shutterstock


In the meat industry, ducks are cramped by the thousands into small cages, often in the dark. Swimming, chasing bugs, or laying in the grass is a mere dream. The air is thick with ammonia, and they fight and kill each other out of stress. For this reason, ducks may have their beaks clipped off, an incredibly painful process that permanently disfigures them. If they are in the foie gras industry, typical conditions are being kept in rows of single-celled cages. The only uncaged part of their bodies is their heads, allowing workers access to force-feed them. Producing foie gras involves force-feeding ducks and geese until they develop fatty liver disease, a cruel process banned in multiple countries. At slaughter, these birds will be hung upside down and have their throat slit, at which point their bodies are plunged into boiling water to release the feathers used for the down industry.  

Violet, a survivor of beak clipping in the duck industry, has her tongue permanently exposed from the disfiguring procedure. She now lives in freedom.

Source: Sweet Peace Farm Sanctuary


No such thing as humane down

In the same way that buying cheese supports the veal industry, buying a down jacket supports the horrendous slaughter of ducks and geese. Some down collection practices involve collecting feathers that are in the process of molting, leading to less pain for the bird. However, the reality is that feathers molt at different times, and ducks and geese are being stripped of their feathers all the same. Any industry that uses animals for profit deprives them of their ability to live freely and happily. No matter how the feathers are collected, ducks and geese are bred, exploited, and killed for it.

As justice for animals becomes a more prominent cause, so has the scrutiny that the down feather industry faces. There are now multiple organizations that offer certifications to down suppliers indicating that the down is ‘humane’ or ‘ethical’. Typically, these certifications are awarded when the company follows animal welfare guidelines, or the down comes from birds that are not force-fed or live-plucked. However, even in the most humane scenarios, ducks and geese are still being bred and slaughtered by the hundreds of millions each year. Regardless of how gently they are exploited during their short lives, each of these birds faces an unwilling and terrifying death to have their feathers taken from them. 


Geese deserve space to roam, forage, swim, and form lifelong relationships. They are highly emotional animals with fierce loyalty and commitment to one another. Living isolated in cages is no place for them.

Source: Sweet Peace Farm Sanctuary