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What’s So Bad About Down?

Take a look at this picture.

Can you see anything wrong with it? You might have said, “Yikes, their fun pillow fight turned into a feathery mess. Their parents will be mad.” But where did all those feathers come from?

Down is the soft layer of feathers found on geese’s and ducks’ chests. Many companies stuff this down into pillows, jackets, and other things. And to get the feathers, workers often rip them out by the fistful from birds who are still alive, which is painful and stressful for them. These birds are typically plucked for the first time when they’re only 10 weeks old! Then this happens to them again and again—every 6 weeks. Birds can easily bleed when their feathers are pulled out, and they’re often picked up roughly by their necks or delicate wings.

Geese and ducks are a lot more like us than we might think. Geese mate for life, and when one partner dies, the other grieves, just as we do when someone we love dies. Mother ducks and geese sometimes use their own down feathers to line their nests to make it nice and cozy for them and their babies.

Luckily, there’s something super-simple that you can do to help birds: Don’t buy items that have down in them! Besides pillows and jackets, down is often used in comforters and sleeping bags. But you can find plenty of down-free items at stores where you already shop. It’s as easy as just checking the tags to see what the product is made of. If it says “down,” put it down.