Down: Ducks and Geese Pay the Price

Down, the soft layer of feathers closest to birds’ skin, is used to make clothing and duvets. But behind the fluff lies a harsh truth, as these feathers may be violently ripped from the bodies of ducks and geese while they’re still alive.

Geese after live plucking© Friedrich Mülln

The Horror of Live Plucking

Imagine being lifted up by your neck and having your hair torn from your head without painkillers – then you might have an idea about how painful and distressing live plucking is for ducks and geese. The struggling birds are roughly pinned down and have their feathers yanked out so hard that their skin is often torn open, leaving gaping, bloody wounds. Hurried workers, known as “rippers”, stitch up these gashes using needle and thread – and no anaesthetic. Some of the terrified animals die from this ordeal.

Birds Deserve Better

Ducks and geese are highly sociable animals, preferring to live in large groups – a group of geese is a gaggle, and a group of ducks is called a paddling. Geese mate for life and mourn for lengthy periods when their partners die, while ducks are meticulously clean animals who keep their nests free of debris. Both have excellent navigational abilities and long memories, which stand them in good stead during their yearly migrations.


Down With Down

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.

Down Demo Trafalgar Square

What You Can Do

There’s no way to know whether the down used in the products you buy was obtained from live-plucked birds – the only way to ensure that no animals suffered for your clothing or bedding is by going down-free.

So please, don’t buy down! Synthetic fabrics can provide all the softness and warmth you need without any of the cruelty. Outdoor companies such as The North Face are now pioneering superior, state-of-the-art animal-free alternatives, and as an added bonus, these materials will keep you cosy in all types of weather – unlike down, which becomes useless when wet.

Numerous fashion companies have decided to drop down after hearing about the cruel industry, including Topshop, Primark and ASOS. We’ve compiled a list of the brands that have banned down to help you shop compassionately.

Many people don’t know about the trauma that ducks and geese endure for down. So please share this information with your family and friends, and encourage them to go down-free, too!



  • Researchers at Middlesex University in Britain report that ducks have regional accents, just as humans do.
  • Ducklings and goslings are often plucked when they are only 10 weeks old.
  • Buying down subsidises the cruel foie gras industry, as many farmers make extra money by selling birds’ feathers before they slaughter the animals.
  • According to a poll commissioned by PETA US, 80 per cent of outdoor-sports enthusiasts are happy to choose products with synthetic insulation rather than down.