What Is Ethical Down?

By David Hanney

The use of eiderdown for its insulation properties goes back to Viking times. And duck and goose down has been used in outdoor gear since the 19th century because of its incredible warmth-to-weight ratio and packability.

Recent breakthroughs in man-made fibre technology now mean there are alternatives to down that rival the performance of down in mountain conditions.

The comfort, warmth-to-weight ratio and packability have made down ubiquitous in the outdoors. As synthetic alternatives are available its worthwhile to explore some of the issues with down, what the environmental benefits and Alpkits use of ethical down is all our products.

  1. What animal welfare issues have been raised with down?

  2. What are the sustainable benefits of down?

  3. What is ethical down?

Recycled Filoment Hoody

What animal welfare issues have been raised with down?

Duck and Goose Down are both animal products and are farmed intensively as part of the food industry. So down products are not appropriate for those that make positive choices against animal products in their lives.

Over recent years, there have been issues surrounding the ethical nature of down and particularly the force-feeding and live plucking of animals. More information on the horrors of live plucking and farming of duck and geese can be found on the PETA website.

What are the sustainable benefits of down?

Down does have ethical and sustainable benefits over synthetic materials:

  • It conserves resources as it is a by product of the food industry
  • It is a bio-degrabable natural product
  • It can be farmed from sustainable and renewable sources unlike man-made fibres which are often made from non-renewable resources such as oil

The outdoor industry uses a tiny proportion of the down farmed globally. Most down is used for bedding in duvets and pillows.

What is ethical down?

Ethical down is the down feathers and plumage plucked from animals to cause no unnecessary harm.

Orgnisations such as Responsible Down Standard and Global Traceable Down Standard have developed a voluntary code in cooperation with animal welfare groups and the down industry.

These standards are based on the Five Freedoms regarding animal welfare which are freedom from hunger, thirst, pain, injury, disease and fear, in addition to freedom to express animal behaviours.

Anyone concerned about animal welfare in the products they use should look out for one of these standards.

At Alpkit we only use either 100% recycled down or down from certified by Responsible Down Standard (RDS) farms. This means no live plucking and no force feeding. Our recycled down is certified by Recycled Claim Standard 100 (RCS 100) which tracks down through the supply chain from sorting to cleaning to processing to ensure that it’s 100% recycled. Strictly our recycled down may have originated from non-RDS farms. However we believe in the conservation benefits of recycling and reuse of down over using new resources.

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