We were shocked to learn the horrors of how down from the insulation of jackets was sourced. Geese and Ducks being pinned down and ripped apart for their plumage, the soft insulation under their feathers. Once plucking is complete they are left naked and bleeding without pain medicine, to shiver and suffer while their feathers grow back. With some farms found to pluck their birds up to four times a year.
We have looked at ethically sourced down alternatives. First; farms that do not live-pluck. They kill the birds for their meat before they are plucked for their down. This way the birds are not living in pain and suffering. The problem here is, tracing the source of the down to ensure it is cruelty free is incredibly difficult.
If the down product doesn't have a certified tag, stating it's from non live plucked sources, how do you trust it?
Another issue is that many of the duck and geese farms are widely dispersed throughout Europe and Asia, causing it to be very difficult to monitor exactly where all down is sourced from and ensure that the farms are actually keeping their birds in reasonable living conditions. A level of skepticism is required when relying on the information being provided by the farms about their own conditions.
Through our own experience of trying to source down free from live-plucked birds, we found that it is tremendously difficult to trace the down from our jackets to the specific birds or even farms. Often in the process of making the puffer jackets, bags of down from live and non-live plucked birds are passed around and easily mixed up.
The alternative we've used for 2018 is a synthetic down substitute. A huge advantage of this alternative is that plucking birds is avoided altogether. In terms of quality of material, this substitute also has its advantages.
FEATHER v SYNTHETIC | PERFORMANCE
Natural down does not repel water meaning it is easily saturated and is slow to dry. When wet, the plumage in the jacket clumps together and compresses losing much of its insulating properties. The jacket requires tumble drying to get it back to peak condition, obviously not ideal on a hunting excursion.
Synthetic down is much more resilient to moisture and when the jacket does get saturated, it still retains heat. Unlike real down, synthetic jackets can be effectively dried by being hung outside on a sunny and windy day. The jackets are machine washable, dryable and are 100% hypoallergenic.
Choosing not to take a risk with down is how we can ensure we are making socially responsible decisions with the ducks and geese interests at heart.
Our 2018 hunting range uses the latest synthetic down on the market, thus avoiding any involvement in plucking farms altogether while we are unable guarantee an ethical source.
Live Plucked Birds photos provided by FOUR PAWS