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Down and Feathers


FACTSHEET

 

 

 
 

Overview

Fur

Leather

Reptile Skin

Wool

Down & Feathers

Silk

The Byproduct Myth

Alternatives

 

 


Geese & Ducks:
Foie Gras & Meat

Animal Agriculture: Selected Bibliography

 

 


Dying to Get
Dressed Up

How Long
Animals Live

Wildlife Body Parts, Fur, & Leather

Avian Flu in Israel

 

 

 

In a natural setting, geese congregate in flocks and form family groups, mating for life. They conscientiously protect their young from predators. Before they acquire their flight feathers, large groups of young geese are overseen by mated pairs taking turns as guardians. They have very strong affection for others in their flock, and they will try to help a goose who is sick or wounded or shot. Geese, as well as ducks, migrate great distances and have a lifespan of 1215 years.

 

On the factory farm, geese and ducks live miserable lives, full of cruelty and constant pain. Very soft down is taken while they are still nesting. During their short lives, their feathers are plucked 35 times, while their legs are tied together and they are hung upside down. This particularly agonizing and traumatizing practice, called "ripping," starts shortly after they develop their first full coat of feathers at eight weeks. Six weeks after their last live plucking, the geese are slaughtered.

 

In this most horrible scenario, the same geese who are plucked for down are also force-fed to produce foie gras. In these circumstances, geese first go through the "ripping" process for their down for a few months, then they are confined in small frames and force-fed until their livers are enlarged with disease, and finally they are slaughtered, at which point the last of their feathers are machine plucked. The entire process generally takes 2228 weeks.

 

World production of down is estimated to be in the thousands of tons, most of which originates in China, Hungary, and Poland. Down and feathers are commonly used for pillows, mattresses, comforters, furniture upholstery, and outerwear linings. Alternatives are superior in all respects since they are allergy-free, less expensive, easier to clean, and maintain their insulating properties even when wet.

 

Numerous other birds are exploited for their unique feathers, which can be incorporated into clothes as trim, or as individual fashion items like scarves. Ostriches, for example, produce long, soft plumes that are cut off at about 9 months while the bird is held within wooden restraints. The ostrich can live as long as 70 years in a natural setting, will defend its young vigorously, and bonds for life with a mate. On the farm, ostriches are killed at 1014 months. The South African ostrich industry currently exports about 350 metric tons of feathers a year.

 


Reference:
Roger Buckland, Gerard Guy, "Goose Production," FAO Animal Production and Health Paper No. 154, ISBN 92-5-104862-2, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 2002, ISSN 0254-6019
http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y4359E/y4359E00.htm

 

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