Multiple investigations by PETA entities have revealed that geese and ducks exploited for down are live plucked and eventually killed. No matter what the label says, down means a lifetime of pain for these gentle birds. The “Responsible” Down Standard (RDS) is a humane-washing label aimed at convincing consumers to buy the feathers of tortured birds. The videos below capture the horrifying moments when workers electrocute ducks and decapitate geese – behaviour that is far from “responsible”.

What Is Down?

Down is the soft layer of feathers closest to birds’ skin that helps insulate them from the cold. These feathers are highly valued by manufacturers of down clothing and duvets because they don’t have quills.

Most feathers are removed from ducks and geese when they are cruelly slaughtered, and birds raised for meat or breeding may be plucked repeatedly while they’re still alive.

Following a PETA exposé of live-plucking in the down industry in China, many suppliers spouted lies about “humane” down collected from slaughtered birds. The videos below show that this is nothing more than a marketing tactic.

Down may also be a coproduct of foie gras, for which geese and ducks are force-fed so that their livers swell to up to 10 times their normal size. The birds are then killed and their diseased livers are sold as a “delicacy”. No matter how feathers are obtained, they belong to the animals who grew them.

‘Responsible’ Down Is a Marketing Scam

The RDS – a certification programme for down suppliers – is designed to comfort consumers by labelling some sources of down as “responsible”. As PETA Asia has uncovered, these “standards” fail to protect birds.

Geese Decapitated in Russia

PETA Asia investigated eight RDS-certified goose farms in Russia – which exports down around the world – revealing that geese were beheaded with a dull axe while they were fully conscious.

A worker is heard laughing after decapitating a goose with five blows of the axe and tossing the body into the snow. Another goose shrieks in terror while being struck seven times. Birds’ wings and feet can be seen twitching for more than five minutes afterwards.

Ducks Stabbed in the Neck, Their Legs Cut Off in Vietnam

Between November 2021 and November 2022, PETA Asia investigators visited duck farms and abattoirs in Vietnam connected to companies that sell “responsible” down, including Marks & Spencer, H&M, UNIQLO, Gap Inc, Lacoste, and dozens of others, exposing unspeakable cruelty to ducks.

Inside a duck slaughterhouse, investigators filmed a worker violently grabbing birds and hanging them upside down in shackles. The worker stepped on ducks, apparently to pin them down so they could be restrained and then shackled.

Shackled birds were dragged through an electrified water bath that paralysed them but didn’t render them unconscious. A worker then stabbed them in the neck with a knife and left them hanging and bleeding out. Many birds continued to move for more than a minute afterwards.

Birds Electrocuted, Their Throats Slit in Poland

Footage from Poland – the world’s second-largest exporter of down – shows workers handling ducks and geese roughly, kicking them, electrocuting them, and cutting their throats, likely while many were still conscious.

The eyewitnesses also visited farms where ducks and geese are raised. Crammed by the thousands into dirty sheds or enclosures, birds were forced to stand in their own excrement and likely suffered from painful urine scald on their feet and ammonia burns to their eyes. They were denied any water to swim in – a basic necessity for waterfowl – and had no way to clean themselves.

Workers Carry Panicked Birds by the Neck in North America

If this is not enough for you to ditch down, watch this PETA US investigation, which shows geese left in filthy crates for up to 24 hours without food or water. They remained in these appalling conditions during a trip to the abattoir that lasted over five hours.

See the Individual: Ducks and Geese Feel Pain and Fear, Too

Social and outgoing, ducks are happiest when they’re with their “paddling”, a close-knit group of family members and friends. They swim and fly together in formation and even have regional accents. These birds feel fear and pain just as acutely as humans do and share the same desire to be free of suffering. They need their feathers – we don’t.

Read the Label

Regardless of which farm the animals are kept on or which country they’re slaughtered in – there is no ethical way to steal feathers from birds.

Always check the label before purchasing an item and remove it from your shopping basket if down is listed as a material. Many major brands offer animal-free jackets, so you can always opt for cruelty-free products when shopping.

Speak Out for Birds

Send messages to major brands and tell them to ditch down and use animal-free materials now.

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