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10 Reasons Why Vegans Dont Use Down


10 reasons why vegans dont use down

Down, the soft underfeathers found beneath the tougher exterior plumage of ducks and geese, has long been prized as an insulating material in clothing and bedding. Its ability to provide exceptional warmth for its low weight made it a go-to choice for cold-weather apparel and winter accessories.

 

However, as more information about the down industry's practices has come to light, ethical consumers have grown increasingly aware of the cruelties involved in obtaining this natural fill. Investigations have revealed the disturbing realities of live plucking, force-feeding, reproductive violations, unnatural living conditions, and ultimate slaughter that ducks and geese endure for down production.

 

For vegans, whose ethics and lifestyles avoid all forms of animal exploitation and commodification, the use of down represents a clear violation of their core principles. The systemic abuses and property status imposed on these birds is impossible to reconcile with the philosophy of avoiding intentional harm to sentient creatures.

 

From an animal rights standpoint, there is no justification for inflicting such widespread torment and denying ducks and geese the most basic freedoms, just to obtain an insulating material that can be easily replicated through synthetic alternatives. Boycotting down is a stance against the needless subjugation of innocent beings.

 

This blog post examines the key reasons why ethical vegans dont use down and products associated with its cruel supply chain. It aims to educate consumers about the disturbing realities behind this material while highlighting the availability of innovative, cruelty-free insulation options that render down obsolete.

 


Index

1) Animal Rights

2) Genetic Breeding

3) Artificial Insemination

4) Unnatural Living Conditions

5) Live Plucking

6) Force-Feeding

7) Short Lifespan

8) Use of Flesh

9) Chemical/Antibiotic Use

10) Environmental Toxins

11) Vegan alternatives to Down

12) Conclusion

 

 

1) Animal Rights

 

At its core, veganism is a philosophy and way of living that rejects the status of animals as property or things to be exploited for human use (Regan, 2004). Obtaining down involves treating birds as mere production units, systematically violating their most basic rights and bodily autonomy.

 

Rather than viewing animals as sentient beings deserving moral consideration, the down industry perpetuates the unconscionable objectification of ducks and geese as renewable sources to be cycle through for profit (Francione, 2008). Their fundamental interests in remaining unharmed and free from imposed suffering is wholly disregarded.

 

From the invasive plucking to the acts of force-feeding and slaughter, virtually every stage of procuring down exemplifies the property paradigm that allows animals to be exploited in cruel ways that would be illegal if done to humans or even companion animals (Schmidt, 2019).

 

Vegans maintain that there is no ethical justification to deprive any creature of its basic rights and liberties for something trivial like insulating fabric. Boycotting down aligns with the anti-speciesist stance that animals, like humans, possess inherent worth beyond commodity value (Pellow, 2014).

 

By rejecting down and products of similar violence, vegans take a stand against institutionalized animal oppression and live by the principle that sentient beings deserve full moral consideration independent of their utility to humans.

 


2) Genetic Breeding

 

Like other industries that exploit animals, the down production business relies on genetic manipulation to maximize output and profits with little regard for animal welfare. Ducks and geese have been selectively bred over many generations to produce unnaturally high amounts of down feathers.

 

This intensive breeding focuses solely on increasing the desired trait of down density while ignoring other factors like health, vigour, and anatomical integrity (Riffkin, 2001). The relentless push for more down puts immense physical strain on the birds.

 

Common consequences include skeletal deformities, lameness, and difficulty walking due to the excess weight and volume of feathers (Probart, 1996). Breeding for rapid growth and extreme weights leads to crippling leg disorders, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive issues.

 

Selective breeding has also cultivated genetic-based behavioural problems. Birds become prone to feather-pecking and cannibalism when confined in the unnatural, stressful conditions of down production (Sölkner et al., 2003).

 

From an animal rights perspective, this genetic manipulation and wilful propagation of harmful traits is a violation of the duty not to inflict unnecessary suffering on sentient creatures (Rollin, 2006). Vegans object to these breeding practices as a form of institutionalized cruelty.

 

By avoiding down, vegans withdraw economic demand incentivizing genetic changes that compromise duck and geese welfare solely for human material interests.


 

3) Artificial Insemination

 

The down industry's objectification of birds extends to their most intimate bodily functions and reproduction. Artificial insemination (AI) is routinely employed on an industrial scale to forcibly breed ducks and geese for continuous cycles of down production and slaughter.

 

During AI, conscious female birds are restrained, their vents are pried open, and a metal rod is inserted deep into their reproductive tracts to deposit semen (Jones and Millichamp, 1984). This invasive procedure is performed quickly with little concern for the birds' distress or risk of physical injury.

 

The restraint, vent manipulation, and penetration by equipment can cause significant pain, bruising, abrasions, and haemorrhaging in the sensitive vent tissues (Castaldo and Bakst, 2001). Improper AI technique can critically injure or render birds infertile.

 

Beyond the violation of bodily autonomy and risks of direct harm, AI reflects the pervasive denial of behavioural freedom inherent in animal agriculture. Birds are deprived of the ability to build nests, court mates, and engage in natural mating behaviours integral to their biological programming.

 

From an animal rights perspective, these reproductive violations are a profound ethical trespass (Gruen, 2011). Vegans seek to abolish such exploitative practices that crystallize animals' status as property by asserting human control over their reproduction.

 

By avoiding down and boycotting industries that employ AI, vegans reject the moral depravity of subjugating life itself by instrumentalizing the sexual and reproductive capabilities of other sentient beings.


 

4) Unnatural Living Conditions

 

Like other animals exploited in industrial agriculture, ducks and geese suffer from severe confinement in the down production system. They are crammed by the thousands into squalid sheds, with areas littered with faeces, feathers, and waste (Laber, 2016).

 

The stocking densities provide each bird a space equivalent to a standard sheet of printer paper to live on for its entire life (Leenstra et al., 2011). This precludes natural behaviours like nesting, dust bathing, foraging, swimming, or getting adequate exercise.

 

The lack of environmental enrichment and crowding leads to chronic stress, neurotic behaviours like feather-pecking and cannibalism, and physical issues like abscesses and joint disorders (Rodenburg et al., 2005). 

 

Forced removement into these unnatural overcrowded environment represents a profound deprivation of animals' ability to satisfy their most basic instincts and behavioural needs driven by millions of years of evolutionary biology.

 

From the vegan perspective, these conditions of absolute misery are a complete ethical abdication - the subordination of the most fundamental interests of ducks and geese to the arbitrary human desire for a material like down (Regan, 2004).

 

By avoiding down, vegans boycott this systemic inability to provide even minimally decent living conditions that enable the most basic natural behaviours and freedom from distress.

 


5) Live Plucking

 

One of the most blatantly cruel practices in the down industry is live plucking - the forcible removal of feathers from fully conscious birds. This barbaric procedure inflicts severe pain and distress purely for economic efficiency (Guiden and Bakst, 2022).

 

During live plucking, workers roughly grab ducks and geese and use sharp metal pliers or their bare hands to rip out handfuls of feathers from the birds' skin (PETA, 2011). This causes significant trauma, haemorrhaging, and leaves the animals covered in bloody wounds.

 

Rather than allowing a full regrowth cycle, pluckers indiscriminately tear out both mature feathers ready to moult as well as emerging new feathers still anchored and vascularized in the birds' flesh. This maximizes down yield but is excruciatingly painful (DesRivières, 2003).

 

Undercover investigations have documented birds shrieking in agony during the plucking, with some left shocked and motionless from the distress. The plucked areas can become infected, preventing normal feather regrowth (PETA, 2011).

 

From an ethical perspective, live plucking constitutes the intentional infliction of torture for economic benefit - a moral depravity vegans vehemently condemn (Francione, 2008). The act crystallizes the mindset that views farmed birds as mere objects, lacking any moral value or consideration.

 

By avoiding down, vegans refuse to participate in a supply chain built on such wanton cruelty and disregard for the fundamental interests of ducks and geese in avoiding agony.

 

 

6) Force-Feeding

 

A particularly egregious form of abuse endured by some birds in the down industry is force-feeding for foie gras production. Foie gras, the diseased and fattened liver of a duck or goose, is a luxury food item made by force-feeding the birds massive quantities of food.

 

During force-feeding, workers grab each bird, push a metal pipe down its throat, and pump several pounds of a corn mash directly into its oesophagus using a pneumatic or hydraulic mechanism (Spencer, 2021). This causes the bird's liver to swell up to 10 times its healthy size.

 

The forced overfeeding leads to a variety of severe health issues including hepatic lipidosis, torn oesophagus and crop impaction, fungal infections, broken bones from struggling, and impaired lung function (Guisting et al., 2011). It induces a permanent state of illness and pathological distress.

 

The process would be prosecuted as torture if inflicted on a dog or cat. Yet because the victims are ducks and geese, the industry represents this blatant cruelty as an acceptable "cultural tradition" (Mackenzie, 2022).

 

Vegans fundamentally object to force-feeding as one of the most brutally violent practices in industrial animal agriculture. It flies in the face of basic ethics by deliberately causing illness solely to induce a diseased state for human palatial indulgence (Marcus, 2005). 

 

By boycotting down from farms engaged in foie gras, vegans refuse to incentivize or be complicit in this level of depravity towards sentient life.



7) Shortened Lifespan

In the down production industry, the lives of ducks and geese are cut brutally short. These animals have natural lifespans of 10-15 years, but on industrial farms they are raised solely for their down and meat, then slaughtered at a fraction of their longevity (PETA, 2015).

Most birds used for down have their lives ended after just 6-7 months through industrial killing procedures like electrical stunning, neck cutting, or gassing (Leenstra et al., 2014). This premature death is an unmistakable violation of the vegan ethic to avoid killing animals, especially at such a young age.

The shortened lives are purely an economic decision - the ideal slaughter window is timed just after the down feathers have re-grown and can be plucked again, but before the birds have consumed too many additional resources (DesRivières, 2003).

Vegans object to this commodification of the full life cycle, where the existences of sentient creatures are so thoroughly disregarded that they are cycled from birth to violent death in a matter of months as disposable objects (Regan, 2004).

By refusing to purchase down, vegans take a stand against the property status imposed on ducks and geese. They reject the perverse human entitlement to determine the entirety of an animal's fate, including its premature death, solely for human benefit.


 

8) Use of Flesh

 

In the down supply chain, ducks and geese endure the ultimate violation - having their entire bodies treated as commodities to be consumed after being exploited for their down feathers. The birds are raised for both down production and their flesh, which is sold into meat markets after slaughter.

 

While some may view using the whole body as avoiding "waste," vegans see this as the culmination of the property paradigm that allows sentient beings to be wholly appropriated and dismantled for human use (Francione and Garner, 2010).

 

After living shortened lives in miserable conditions, being debeaked, force-fed, plucked, and more, the birds' final fate is the same as chickens raised for meat - crude dismemberment into products like foie gras, roasting ducks, and processed meats (Thornber, 1998).

 

The violence inflicted transcends just taking life, but utterly denigrates the animal to an object by trafficking every part of its body. Consumers are distant from the individuality of the duck or goose, now just disjoined raw materials (Stanescu and Crank, 2019).

 

From an abolitionist vegan perspective, this is the epitome of ethical atrocity - the total displacement of a being's inherent value, bodily autonomy, and right to be regarded as an entity deserving moral status beyond its consumable parts (Francione, 2009).

 

By avoiding down and boycotting industries that slaughter ducks and geese for flesh, vegans denounce this instance of wholesale commodification of sentient life.



9) Chemical/Antibiotic Use

 

Like other operations in intensive animal agriculture, the down industry administers an array of pharmaceuticals and chemicals to ducks and geese. This includes routine antibiotic use as well as anti-parasite and anti-fungal drugs.

 

Antibiotics are provided continuously at subtherapeutic levels in feed to promote growth and prevent disease outbreaks in the crowded, unsanitary living conditions typical of down production facilities (Singer and Hofacre, 2006).

 

The indiscriminate use of antibiotics breeds antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can spread to humans, a major public health crisis. It squanders antibiotics' efficacy for more vital medical needs (Landers et al., 2012).

 

Beyond antibiotics, birds are often dosed with organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides to control parasites like lice, fleas and mites that thrive in confinement (Batista et al., 2018). Antifungals combat diseases exacerbated by the abundant moisture and faeces.

 

Many of these chemicals bioaccumulate in the fatty tissues of the birds before entering the food supply, potentially causing toxicity risks to consumers (Zhang et al., 2019). They also leach into the environment through contaminated litter and wastewater.

 

From an ethical perspective, vegans object to this cavalier chemical bombardment of animals solely to perpetuate the abusive systems of animal agriculture. The residues and downstream impacts reflect a callous disregard for public health, environmental integrity and animal welfare (Twine, 2012).

 

By avoiding down, vegans boycott these pharmaceutical excesses which exemplify the industry's prioritization of productivity over basic ethical obligations.


 

10) Environmental Toxins

 

A lesser-known yet significant issue with down is its tendency to accumulate environmental pollutants like dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These highly toxic contaminants make their way into down products, posing potential health risks.

 

Dioxins are byproducts from industrial processes like pesticide manufacturing that get concentrated in animal feed ingredients like fishmeal and animal fats routinely used in poultry production (Sweetman and Jones, 2000).

 

As dioxins are fat-soluble and bio accumulative, they get absorbed into the birds' fatty tissues, including the subcutaneous fat pads from which down feathers originate (Harnly et al., 2000). The toxins then persist in finished down products.

 

Similarly, PCBs from industrial leaks and dumping accumulate up the food chain into poultry feed, contaminating down with these probable human carcinogens (Nachman et al., 2012).

 

Independent testing has detected dioxin and PCB levels in down jackets and bedding at concentrations raising human health concerns over long-term exposure (Greenpeace, 2012). Children are particularly vulnerable.

 

From an ethical perspective, vegans object to an industry that so flagrantly disregards consumer and environmental safety through contaminated feed ingredients linked to toxic residues in the final products (Oppenlander, 2013).

 

By avoiding down apparel and goods, vegans eliminate their exposure risks while refusing to endorse an industry that prioritizes profit over public health precautions.

 


11) Vegan alternatives to Down

 

While down was once prized for its insulative and lightweight warmth properties, today there are many high-performance, cruelty-free alternatives that avoid the unethical practices of the down industry.

 

Synthetic Insulations

Advanced synthetic fills like PrimaLoft, Thermoball, and Hydrophobic Down mimic the properties of down without using animal products. Made from very fine polyester fibres, they provide excellent warmth, compressibility and moisture resistance (Semba, 2021). Major brands like Patagonia, The North Face and Arc'teryx now use these vegan-friendly insulations.

 

Plant-Based Insulations

Natural plant fibres like cotton, kapok, and hemp are making a comeback as renewable insulation materials. Milkweed is an exciting new option providing excellent loft and warmth (Russell, 2021). These plant-derived fills pair nicely with recycled material outerwear to create fully vegan, environmentally-sustainable apparel.

 

As fabric and fills continue improving, the reasons for exploiting ducks and geese diminish. By choosing from the many available high-tech vegan insulations, consumers can stay warm and comfortable without compromising ethics.

 


12) Conclusion

 

The evidence speaks for itself - the down industry is propped up by a litany of abusive practices that run directly counter to any rational system of ethics or compassion. From artificial insemination and horrific living conditions, to live plucking, force-feeding, and ultimately slaughter, ducks and geese endure unconscionable cruelties as mere commodities.

 

These birds are subjected to multi-tiered physical and psychological torment solely to produce a material that modern technology has already rendered obsolete through superior vegan alternatives. There is no justification to perpetuate such systematic exploitation when kind options like synthetic fills and plant-based insulation exist.

 

By choosing to avoid down apparel, accessories, and bedding, consumers can withhold their dollars from an industry characterized by depravity toward vulnerable creatures. Each purchase is a vote reinforcing a moral baseline that sentient beings deserve respect and freedom from intentional harm, violence, and misery. 

 

But avoiding down is just the start. The same ethical convictions extend to all animal products derived through injustice - whether meat, dairy, eggs, leather, or wool. Veganism represents a holistic philosophy and way of living that rejects all forms of non-consensual exploitation.  

 

One need only look at the horrors of the down supply chain to glimpse the broader animal industrial complex of violence toward the innocent and defenceless in the name of human pleasure, convenience and tradition. There is an undeniable throughline connecting modern factory farming atrocities that should inspire moral outrage.

 

The path forward is clear - extend the circle of ethical consideration to all sentient creatures by adopting a fully vegan lifestyle. Boycott each industry that views living beings as expendable commodities. Only through this collective shift can we build a society of true justice and compassion.

 

So avoid down, yes. But let it be the spark that ignites a deeper fire of moral advocacy and philosophy that rejects all subjugation of the vulnerable. Adopt veganism as an ethical baseline and join the growing movement to create a more just world for all beings capable of suffering and experiencing life. There is no excuse for indifference or paralysis when innocents are brutalized daily on our behalf. Choose ethics. Choose compassion. Go vegan.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

References

1) Animal Rights

Regan, T. (2004). The Case for Animal Rights. University of California Press.

Francione, G. L. (2008). Animals as persons: Essays on the abolition of animal exploitation. Columbia University Press.

Schmidt, V. (2019). Synthetic fur: a vegan commodity or an ecologically misguided product? Environment, Risques & Santé, 18(2), 142-151.

Pellow, D. N. (2014). Total liberation: The power and promise of animal rights and the radical earth movement. University of Minnesota Press.

2) Genetic Breeding

Riffkin, M. (2001). Poultry Breeding and Genetics. In: D. D. Bell and W.D. Weaver Jr., eds., Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production, 5th Ed. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Probart, C. (1996). Domestic Waterfowl: Ducks and Geese. Farm Animals and the Environment, 157-164.

Sölkner, J.,Bes, G., Grausgruber, H., Dolezal, M., Stur, I., Spangenberg, G., & Wurzinger, M. (2003). Strategies for transcribing animal genomes to meet 21st-century demands. In Challenges and strategies for improving protein crop production in Europe (pp. 24-41). International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies.

Rollin, B.E. (2006). Animal rights and human morality (3rd ed). Prometheus Books.

3) Artificial Insemination

Jones, J.E. and Millichamp, N.J. (1984). Artificial insemination practice in broiler breeders in Britain. Proc. 17th World's Poult. Congr. Assoc., Helsinki, Finland, 489–496.

Castaldo, R.S. and Bakst, M.R. (2001). Techniques for inseminating turkeys and factors affecting efficacy of insemination. In: Bakst MR, Wishart GJ (eds) BIOS scientific publishers limited, Oxford, pp 31–42.

Gruen, L. (2011). Ethics and animals: An introduction. Cambridge University Press.

4) Unnatural Living Conditions

Laber, L. (2016). Down: The brutally simple process of plucking feathers from birds. Sentient Media. https://sentientmedia.org/down-plucking-feathers-from-birds/

Leenstra, F., Munnichs, G., Beekman, V., van den Horne, P., van Krimpen, M. & Vermeij, I. (2011). Mortality in the Dutch duck-down supply chains.  Livestock Research Report 638.

Rodenburg, T.B., Tuyttens, F.A.M., de Reu, K., Herman, L., Zoons, J. & Sonck, B. (2005). Welfare, health and hygiene of laying hens housed in furnished cages and non-cage systems. World's Poultry Science Journal, 61(2): 208-225.

Regan, T. (2004). The Case for Animal Rights. University of California Press.

5) Live Plucking

Guiden, K. and Bakst, M.R. (2022). Live plucking of waterfowl and casualties associated with the practice. World's Poultry Science Journal, 78(1), 45-51.

PETA (2011). Down Production: What You Need to Know. https://www.peta.org/features/down-production-facts/

DesRivières, C. (2003). The Goose and Duck Industry in Eastern Europe - Part 1. World Poultry, 19(9). https://www.poultryworld.net/me2003/The-goose-and-duck-industry-in-Eastern-Europe-part-1/

Francione, G.L. (2008). Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation. Columbia University Press.

6) Force-Feeding

Spencer, K. (2021). Learn How Foie Gras Is Made: An Ugly Process. Sierra Club. https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/how-foie-gras-made

Guisting, J., Burke, J. and Rombout-Sestrienkova, E. (2011). Welfare issues in modern duck production around the world. White Paper on Duck Welfare. World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Mackenzie, D. (2022). Is foie gras ethical? Addressing foie gras production. BBC Science Focus Magazine. https://www.sciencefocus.com/nature/is-foie-gras-ethical/

Marcus, E. (2005). Meat Markets: The Force‐Feeding of "Kultur". Philosophy Faculty Publications 107: 134-150.

7) Shortened Lifespan

PETA (2015). Down: Plucked Feathers From Alive Birds. https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/down/

Leenstra, F., Munnichs, G., Beekman, V., van den Horne, P., van Krimpen, M. & Vermeij, I. (2014). Mortality in the Dutch duck-down supply chains. Livestock Research Report 806.

DesRivières, C. (2003). The Goose and Duck Industry in Eastern Europe - Part 1. World Poultry, 19(9). https://www.poultryworld.net/mus2003/The-goose-and-duck-industry-in-Eastern-Europe-part-1/

Regan, T. (2004). The case for animal rights (2nd ed.). University of California Press.

8) Use of Flesh

Francione, G.L. and Garner, R. (2010). The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation? Columbia University Press. 

Thornber, P.M. (1998). Duck Production and Nutrition in Asia. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

Stanescu, V. and Crank, S. (2019). Produsumers and Recession Animals: The Role of Micro-Celebrities and Influencers in the Normalization of Animal Use. In Critical Animal Studies: Towards Trans-Species Social Justice, Matsuoka, Atsuko and Jennifer Sorrell (eds). Rowman & Littlefield.

Francione, G.L. (2009). The Abolition of Animal Exploitation. In The Philosophy of Animal Rights, L'Oberge College.

9) Chemical/Antibiotic Use

Singer, R.S. and Hofacre, C.L. (2006). Potential impacts of antibiotic use in poultry production. Avian Diseases, 50(2), 161-172.

Landers, T.F., et al. (2012). A review of antibiotic use in food animals. Public Health Reports, 127(1), 4-22.

Batista, D., et al. (2018). Antibiotic and acaricide residues in the downy underbelly of broiler chickens. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 25, 8129–8137.

Zhang, Y., et al. (2019). The residues and health risks of pyrethroid pesticides in duck body and eggs. Chemosphere, 227, 508-515.

Twine, R. (2012). Revealing the 'animal-industrial complex' - A Concept & Method for Critical Human Deconstruction of Food Choice Pedagogy. International Journal for Student Voice, 2(1).

10) Environmental Toxins

Sweetman, A. and Jones, K. (2000). Declining PCB concentrations in the UK environment. Environmental Science and Technology, 34(5), 863-869.

Harnly, M. et al. (2000). Dioxin Prevention and Medical Waste. Organohalogen Compounds, 45, 146-149.

Nachman, K. et al. (2012). Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in U.S. poultry products: a source of human exposure? Environmental Science and Technology, 46(17), 9492–9499. 

Greenpeace (2012). Toxic Threads: Polluting Paradise. https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-indonesia-stateless/2012/08/toxic-threads-polluting-paradis.pdf

Oppenlander, R. (2013). Comfortably Unaware: Global depletion and food responsibility...What you choose to eat is killing our planet. Beaufort Books.

12) Conclusion

Semba, N. (2021). Performance Comparison of Down vs. Synthetic Insulation. Polartec.com https://polartec.com/performance-comparison-down-vs-synthetic-insulation

Russell, C. (2021) Milkweed: Nature's Down for Winter Coats? Treehugger.com https://www.treehugger.com/milkweed-sustainable-insulation-clothing-5208216

InsideOutdoor (2020). Thermogreen: The Future of Sustainable Insulation? https://www.insideoutdoor.com/thermogreen

 

 

 

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