"Down" is the soft underfeathering often plucked out of live geese who are raised for food. In many European countries,
geese are allowed to mature during the first eight or nine weeks of life. Reaching adulthood, they are divided by color. Gray
geese are caged and force-fed--a funnel is inserted into their throats and a salty, fatty corn mash is forced down it, up
to six pounds a day--until they are overweight and their livers have ballooned to four or more times the normal size. Then
they are killed for pâté de foie gras. hite geese are plucked repeatedly to supply filling for products such as comforters,
pillows, and ski parkas.
Plucking the geese causes them considerable pain and distress. Four or five times in their lives, they will squirm as a
plucker tears out five ounces of their feathers. A skilled plucker can handle 100 birds a day. After the last plucking, the
geese have five weeks to grow more feathers before they are sent through a machine that plucks their longest feathers. From
there they go to the slaughterhouse. t least one major U.S. down seller, the Company Store (500 Company Store Rd., La Crosse,
WI 54601-4477), buys down from Hungary and other European countries.
In North America, ducks and geese are hunted and raised for their feathers (and for food). People also gather eider down
from the nests of female eider ducks, who pluck the down from their breasts to line their nests and cover their eggs. Gathering
the soft feathers can kill unhatched ducklings.
Apart from the cruelty involved in its production, down has drawbacks as a cold-weather insulator that synthetic insulators
do not have. Not only is down expensive, it also loses its insulating ability when wet, whereas the insulating capabilities
of cruelty-free synthetic fillers are retained in all weather.
Silk is the fiber silkworms weave to make cocoons. To obtain the silk, silk distributors boil the worms alive in their
cocoons. Worms are sensate--they produce endorphins, a physical response to pain--and anyone who has seen worms scramble when
their dark homes are uncovered recognizes this.
Humane alternatives to silk include nylon, milkweed seed pod fibers, silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments, and rayon.