Independent Audit Reveals No Mistreatment of Geese
The use of goose down for consumer products is not without controversy. Animal rights groups have sensitized us to some of the inhumane practices associated with this industry. Live-plucking is one of them, where down is pulled from live birds. It is said to feel like having your hair pulled out.
Force-feeding geese to produce fatty livers, or foie gras, is another controversial practice, in which a tube is inserted in a goose’s throat to fill the goose with food and fatten its liver. Force-feeding is allowed in Hungary, where we get our gray goose down, and in France, the major market for foie gras. But in many European countries it is banned.
Our white goose down comes from Poland, where geese are raised primarily for their meat. It’s against the law in Poland to force-feed poultry and it’s against the law in all European Union countries to live-pluck birds. Regulations do, however, permit “live-harvesting” of down, which means it can be removed when geese are molting. Live-harvesting is purportedly not painful for geese, but we’re not comfortable with the practice. Many slaughterhouses, including the ones from which we get our down, require their goose suppliers to sign contracts prohibiting them from live-harvesting.
We want to give our customers the highest assurance possible that the geese that supply us with down are treated humanely. To that end, over the last several years, we have been working to develop both short-term and long-term solutions to the issues of live-plucking and force-feeding of birds in our down supply chain. A critical part of this process has been to establish a chain of custody for the down supply chain of the Ultralight Down products in our spring 2013 line.
We commissioned an independent audit that issued its findings in January 2013. During a three-month period, auditors assessed more than a dozen sites over seven field days, including five goose farms, two hatcheries, two slaughterhouses, two processors, one processor/exporter and one factory. But we know from our experiences auditing factories that it’s not enough to just visit a facility on a given day. Auditors must also take a hard look at records over extended periods of time to gain deeper understanding. So in addition to touring facilities in Poland, the U.S., and China, auditors spent numerous desk-review days dedicated to reviewing and assessing documentation, with off-site follow-ups and clarifications.
To our knowledge, no other company has gone to such lengths to assure chain of custody.
Results of the audit showed “no evidence of live-plucking or force-feeding practices” in our white goose down supply chain. Furthermore, it revealed “a robust traceability document chain, adequate labeling and segregation practices with room for improvement in a few areas,” which we intend to work on.