are birds killed for down

Down is the soft layer of feathers closest to birds’ skin, primarily in the chest region. These feathers are highly valued by manufacturers of down clothing and comforters because they do not have quills. While most down and other feathers are removed from ducks and geese during slaughter, birds in breeding flocks and those raised for meat may be plucked repeatedly while they are still alive.

Plucking causes geese and ducks considerable pain and distress. Typically, they are lifted by their necks or delicate wings, their legs are physically restrained or tied, and their feathers are ripped right out of their skin. The struggling birds are often plucked so hard that their skin is torn open and the hurried workers sew up the wounds using needle and thread and no painkillers. Plucking may begin when the animals are just 10 weeks old and be repeated in six-week intervals until the birds are slaughtered for meat long before they would naturally die.

Buying down can also support the cruelty of the foie gras industry. Producers of foie gras often boost their profits by selling the feathers of force-fed ducks and geese. These birds already have to endure having tubes rammed down their throats and their stomachs pumped full of so much corn mush that their livers swell to about 10 times their normal size, which is how foie gras is made.

The Science of Down

of a single down plume

Down feathers grow beneath stiffer exterior feathers. Every down plume consists of a network of filaments that branch into barbs, which branch into barbules, forming a three-dimensional sphere. The intricate structures, which resemble dandelions blooms, trap air near the skin’s surface to keep waterbirds warm to the core even in freezing weather. (Quills with branched filaments in feathers that cover down help birds fly by repelling water.)

“The secret to down’s warmth is that it provides incredible thickness with a surprisingly light weight,” says Matthew Fuller, a down specialist and project engineer at the outdoor equipment manufacturer Mountain Equipment. Down offers much more than just warmth; it’s incredibly strong, light, compressible, and springy. “It’s the perfect combination of mechanical properties. ”.

Thus, even if a hiker stuffs her sleeping bag into a pack, the material will promptly regain its shape. That resilience endures for decades, crushing one after the other, squeeze after squeeze.

With all of this, it is undoubtedly among the world’s best insulating materials. The primary disadvantage from an insulating perspective is that it loses heat when completely saturated, as moisture leads to the collapse of the structure. Manufacturers are treating down with a hydrophobic mixture to help it repel water in order to address this peculiarity. (Ducks and geese have a natural water-proofing mechanism in place. As they groom and comb their feathers into place, they smear a waxy substance produced by a preen gland at the base of their tails over their down.)

Most down products are a mix of down and feathers. In order for a product to be classified as down in the United States, it must be at least 75% down. A product’s insulating quality increases with a higher down-to-feather ratio, but this usually comes with a higher price tag.

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are birds killed for down

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are birds killed for down

FAQ

Is down cruelty free?

Although most down is removed from ducks and geese during slaughter, birds in breeding flocks and those raised for meat and foie gras may endure the trauma of plucking every six weeks before they are eventually killed. But no matter where it comes from, down is a product of cruelty to animals.

Do birds have to be killed for down?

Farmers usually harvest goose down after the birds are slaughtered for meat, and most geese are killed about 15 weeks after hatching. But farmers may also pluck the feathers when geese are still alive, a painful process akin to someone ripping out human hair, animal welfare and advocacy groups say.

Are geese feathers plucked alive for down?

The aim of live-plucking is to gain the maximum amount of feathers and down from the live animal. The animals (predominately geese) suffer dreadfully while their feathers and down are torn out, as workers pluck the animals to produce the most expensive and high quality down.

Are down comforters cruel to animals?

Live plucking causes birds considerable pain and distress. Once their feathers are ripped out, many of the birds, paralyzed with fear, are left with gaping wounds—some even die as a result of the procedure. Workers often sew the birds’ skin back together without using any anesthetics.