One of the best things about going to a park that has a lake is seeing families of ducks and geese waddling around in the grass and going for a dip. These birds are unique because they’re comfortable swimming in the water, walking on land, and flying in the air. They can do it all!
A goose couple stays together for life, and if one dies, their partner will be sad for a very long time. Ducks and geese make great parents, too! To keep her eggs safe and warm, a mother duck fills her nest with some of her own feathers. Mother ducks also lead their ducklings more than a half-mile away from the nest to find a safe place to swim and eat.
When choosing your meals and clothing, you probably don’t think about ducks or geese. But people use them in cruel ways for clothing, food, and bedding. “Down” is the name for the soft feathers that grow on ducks and geese under their tougher outer feathers. These soft feathers act as insulation to keep the birds warm, since they spend a lot of time in cold water diving for food.
But sometimes, humans steal down feathers from birds to stuff inside jackets, pillows, and comforters. They think it will be soft or keep them warm, even though they could just use a vegan material—like cotton, polyester, or PrimaLoft—and let birds keep their feathers. The birds used for their down don’t get to swim in lakes, fly with their friends, or raise their babies as they want. Instead, they often have to live in filthy sheds with so many other birds that they barely have any space to themselves. Workers pin them down and rip out their down feathers. This is very traumatizing and painful for the birds, who can get bloody wounds because the workers are so rough.
These sensitive animals are killed for meat, too. If you’ve ever seen a goose or duck on the table during holiday festivities, that bird was likely killed in a slaughterhouse, where someone hung them upside down, ran their head through electrified water to stun them, and cut their neck before dunking them into a tank of boiling water to loosen their feathers. Sometimes these things are done while the animals are still alive.
These birds are also sometimes used for foie gras, which is what the fatty liver of a duck or goose is called. They typically spend their whole lives crammed in dirty, dark sheds, and workers shove pipes or tubes down their sensitive throats several times a day and force-feed them mushy grains. This makes the birds sick and causes their livers to swell. Then they’re killed so that humans can eat their livers at fancy restaurants. But there’s nothing fancy about eating the diseased liver of an abused bird. And those used for down are sometimes used for foie gras, too, so buying one of these things also supports the other industry.
It’s easy to help ducks and geese! Never eat their flesh or foie gras, and ask your grown-up not to buy anything stuffed with down feathers. There are lots of down-free things that will keep you very cozy, and they can be found at all kinds of stores, like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond. Down-free products usually cost less, too. Just ask your grown-up to check the labels of coats, comforters, and pillows before buying them so that they don’t accidentally pay for the torture of these smart, family-oriented birds.