Winter-Spring 2013 Poultry Press NEXT
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Feathers Ripped From Live Birds for Coats and Pillows
Birds suffer horribly for these consumer products daily mail live plucked

A report by the Daily Mail in the UK was published on the Internet Nov. 30, 2012. To view the full report including the video on UPC’s Website, go to and scroll down to Feathers ripped from birds’ backs and gaping wounds sewn up with no pain relief: The barbaric cost of your winter coat.

UPC summary:

Down is the soft breast feathers of birds. Down-filled clothing made and sold by Armani, Ralph Lauren, Benetton, Gap and other designers is in fashion. The filling for much of this clothing originates on farms where feathers are ripped from the bodies of live geese, leaving them bleeding and in pain. Other feather fillers – about 98 percent of all feathers according to the European Down & Feather Association – are byproducts of the foie gras and duck meat industries. The most prized down is hand-stripped from live birds, because mechanical stripping from slaughtered birds affects product quality. Feathers are pulled from the bird’s breast, back, under the wings, and neck.

Marcus Mueller, an investigator for the animal charity Four Paws, tracks the Hungarian plucking brigades – men and women who go from farm to farm stripping live geese of their feathers. There are plucking brigades in Poland, Ukraine, Russia and Moldova but Hungary is the largest European source of down sold in UK products. The world’s largest feather/down supplier to designers and stores is the U.S.-based company Allied Feather & Down.

Many geese are stripped more than once. Grey geese, bred for foie gras, are plucked once or twice before being slaughtered at 26 weeks old. Investigator Mueller says: “The men and women from the brigades work without feeling, grabbing terrified geese by their wings or legs, sometimes breaking them, always hurting them, as they tear out the birds’ feathers.”

When the plucking is over, the workers roughly sew up the birds’ bleeding wounds with a needle and thread without anesthetic. About 5 weeks later, when the feathers have grown back, the process is repeated. The feathers of three or four geese fill a coat. The feathers of one goose fill a pillow.

Manufacturers and retailers who say they don’t use down from live-plucked birds cannot prove their claim. Marcus Mueller explains: “Brigades go from farm to farm stripping the birds as they go, then the feathers are sold to brokers and middlemen who mix live-plucked feathers with those recovered from slaughtered animals, depending on the quality of the mix their customers ask for.” [UPC Note: this resembles how the “alternative eggs” supply chain works in which eggs from battery-caged hens, “free-range” hens, “cage-free” hens, “organic,” etc. can get mixed along the way to the supermarket.]

Birds who are not plucked alive, but whose feathers are used for pillows, comforters and clothing, suffer no less. If they’re raised for foie gras (fatty liver food product), tubes are rammed down their throats several times a day to force-feed them until their livers are ten times the normal size. If they’re intended for goose, duck or chicken meat, they suffer the same as all animals confined in filthy, disease-ridden industrial buildings and then slaughtered.

Yes, even slaughterhouse chicken feathers are used as pillow and coat fillers, along with feathers from two billion slaughterhouse ducks worldwide each year.

what_can_i_do (10K)

Don’t EVER buy a coat, jacket, comforter, pillow or any other clothing or bedding filled or decorated with down or feathers (or fur or fleece). Read labels. If down/feathers or other animal products are involved, skip the purchase and choose an item made with synthetic materials only. Inform the store’s customer service department how down/feather-filled products originate and why you will never buy them. There are plenty of super warm feather-free products available. Educate your family and friends and stay alert to opportunities to write letters to the editor & participate in online media forums about the cruelty of down/feather products.

When making hotel reservations, arrange in advance to have only fiber/polyester-filled pillows in your room when you arrive. Explain that you want this guarantee the same as no smoking. When you get to the front desk the day of your arrival, reiterate your request for feather-free pillows, and when you get to your room, examine the pillows! Remove the pillow slips until you get to the pillow and READ THE TAG. It will say if the pillow filler is down/feathers or polyester. If down/feather pillows are in your room, call the front desk and ask that the pillows be removed immediately and replaced with feather-free pillows. Politely inform hotel personnel that you are ALLERGIC TO ANIMAL ABUSE and that their “pillow policy” will influence your future hotel choices.

Urge LOEWS HOTELS & RESORTS to replace their down pillows with feather-free pillows. Explain your reasons and request a written reply. Contact:

Paul W. Whetsell, President & CEO
Loews Hotels Corporate Head Office
667 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10065
Phone: 212-521-2000

Sarah Murov
Director of Public Relations
Loews Hotels Corporate Head Office
667 Madison Avenue
New York NY 10065
Phone: 212-521-2495

Winter-Spring 2013 Poultry Press NEXT