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Live Feather Plucking


The aim of live-plucking is to gain the maximum amount of feathers and down from the live animal. The animals (predominately geese) suffer dreadfully while their feathers and down are torn out, as workers pluck the animals (commonly referred to in the industry as “harvesting or gathering”) to produce the most expensive and high quality down. Down from repeatedly plucked “parent animals” in particular is very popular and solely used for premium products. In the current market, expensive down is directly tied to live-plucking as ultralight, high fill power down is often obtained through this cruel practice.


The term “parent animals” refers to animals used solely for the production of offspring, which are then used in the meat industry. Parent animals are at high risk of live-plucking because they are kept for 4 to 5 years and can be subject to live-plucking more frequently than animals kept for meat. In turn, their down is seen to be of high quality because they are plucked multiple times and the so called “fill power” of down increases the more frequently the bird’s feathers are plucked. Sadly parent geese can be plucked up to 16 times during their lifetime. During the plucking, the animals are often injured and the wound is stitched without using anything to dull or numb the pain.


Geese are often plucked several times during their lives. Due to the painful plucking, open wounds occur whilst broken wings are often a consequence of rough handling. Unsurprisingly, birds show signs of fear and distress after being plucked and are sometimes given anti-stress medication.  It is also often claimed that during molting, when feathers and down hang loosely on the skin, they can be harvested in an animal friendly way. There are reasons why this cannot work in practice, namely because a bird’s feathers and down molt at different stages. In addition, not all of the birds in a single farm of several thousand animals molt at the exact same time. As a result, regular feathers and down that are still connected to blood vessels and skin are plucked. Thus the majority of animals will be at risk of pain, bleeding, and immense suffering during the process of live-plucking.

Given that the practice of live-plucking is not openly approved, accurate statistics on the true scale of the practice are lacking; the fact that it is illegal in many countries is a big reason for the lack of reliable figures. The practice of live-plucking is illegal in the United States and in most European countries, but because harvesting of down during molting is allowed, it creates a space for illegal live-plucking. While some countries are known to be places where live-plucking occurs, the fact that down from live-plucked animals can go for double the price compared to non-live plucked animals, makes it tempting for farmers to live-pluck animals for additional profit. Typical countries where down is sourced from include China, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Siberia, France, U.S., and Canada. Live-plucking is known to have occurred in Poland and China, while Hungary is known for both live-plucking and foie gras production.