A new investigation has found that geese in farms across Poland are being plucked alive, despite the practice being banned in the EU.
Animal rights organization FOUR PAWS visited 35 farms across the country. In half of these farms, it was found that live geese were having their down (the soft feathers closest to their skin) removed without pain relief.
The footage was dubbed “disturbing” and “brutal” by investigators. It shows live geese flap their wings in apparent distress, while some animals can be seen lying dead.
“This video shows the hidden cruelty that can occur in the world of fashion when we see prioritization of profit over the welfare of animals,” Jessica Medcalf, animal welfare in fashion expert at FOUR PAWS, told Plant Based News (PBN). “Animals should never be made to suffer, especially at the expense of clothing.”
Warning: the below gallery contains images of animal abuse that some may find upsetting
The down industry
According to PETA, most down feathers are taken from birds during slaughter. However, there remain many farms where workers will repeatedly pluck birds alive while they are being raised for meat.
Plucking will often begin when they are just 10 weeks old. It will typically be repeated every six weeks until they are slaughtered.
Birds are often lifted up by their necks or wings, and will have their legs physically restrained or tied. Often, they will be plucked so hard that their skin will break, leading workers to hurriedly sew them up without pain relief.
Despite this, many people have no idea of the reality of the down industry.
“This product is often hidden, inside coats or a duvet, and therefore it easily becomes a problem out of sight and out of mind,” Emily Wilson, Head of Campaigns at FOUR PAWS UK, told PBN.
The fashion world moves away from down
Down feathers, which are primarily found on the chests of geese, are often used to line jackets, coats, gloves, and bedding.
Plucking live birds is illegal in the UK and EU, but many countries still import products using feathers obtained by these means.
Acquiring feathers that have been shed in a birds’ molting cycle is legal, but it’s very difficult for consumers to know exactly where the down they are buying has come from. According to FOUR PAWS, only around five percent of globally manufactured down and feathers are sourced “responsibly”.
“Consumers can help by choosing products filled with equally warm animal-free alternatives, or, at the very least, look for certified down products where brands and product manufacturers can ensure the entire down supply chain is free from live plucking,” Metcalfe said.
A number of fashion houses – including H&M, Patagonia, and The North Face – have committed to implementing higher animal welfare standards or investing in animal-free alternatives.
FOUR PAWS is urging more fashion brands to ensure their down supply chain is free from live plucking, or better yet transition to animal-free alternatives.
“To truly ensure animal-friendly fashion, the ideal is to see brands transition away from animal-derived material, instead to animal-free / “next generation” alternatives,” Wilson said. She added that products such as Lyocell, silicone, or recycled polyester are suitable alternatives. You can find out more about animal alternatives on the FOUR PAWS website.