one green planet
one green planet
Why It's Important to Choose Feather-Free Products

Image credit: David Saddler/Flickr

Moving towards conscious consumerism is a process. The transition can take weeks, months, and even years! In addition to eating more plant-based foods and buying eco-friendly products, one of the more obvious changes to make is eliminating items in the house that contain feathers.

Coming from birds, down is the fine layer of feathers found closest to the body that insulate and protect them. Utilizing the insulation and padding it offers, down is used in a variety of products such as comforters and pillows, as well as mattresses, sleeping bags, and even some upholstery. Since birds like ducks and geese are bred in large groups for the production of foie gras and meat, “harvesting” feathers is a profitable co-product, and in fact has the highest value.

There are two methods of feather gathering, one of which is when the feathers ready for shedding are removed with minimal force, and the other is when the feathers are plucked from the bird, causing tissue damage such as bruises and tears. In commercial feather harvesting, it is hard to gather only the feathers ready for shedding which leads to feathers being gathered and plucked.

Of course, live-plucking causes the birds pain and some have even died as a result of the procedure. The birds are placed between the knees of the worker while one hand is used to remove all of the feathers. This can happen anywhere between 5 and 15 times during their lifetime, with some birds obtaining large wounds as a result of this ordeal.

Although live-plucking is illegal in the United States and Europe, it takes place in Hungary and Poland, as well as China. Hungary and China are the two largest exporters of down and other feathers, flooding the market with items that contain live-plucked feathers. Of course, whether plucked alive or not, purchasing items that contain feathers supports the cruel foie gras and meat industries, which systematically abuses and kills animals.

If slaughtered for their meat, this presents an opportunity for the feathers to be harvested while the bird isn’t alive, although many birds are improperly stunned, and remain conscious when their throats are cut and they’re put into scalding-hot water to make removing the feathers easier.

While the abuse alone is enough to stop consuming down-filled products, individuals should also bear in mind that when wet the thermal properties of down are virtually eliminated making it useless in temperate or wet climates. If exposed to damp or moist conditions the down forms clumps and goes mouldy, in addition to absorbing and retaining odors. Furthermore, the feathers tend to become more allergenic when contaminated with dirt and dust mites.


It’s important to consume cruelty-free products to limit the demand for down. There are many alternatives, which in some instances are cheaper and in others keep their insulating properties even in wet conditions.

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