Down production: An unnecessary cruelty

Puffer jackets are popular during winter. It is not surprising as they keep you warm and are comfortable to wear. However, did you know that your puffer jacket might contain down? And are you aware of the cruelty involved in down production? Unfortunately, many people are not.


Down comes from the fluffy bit of a duck’s or goose’s chest. They are the feathers that are the closest to a bird’s body, which helps keep them warm.


The majority of down comes from China, where there are few laws to protect animals. Down is often harvested using a process known as “live plucking”. Birds are held upside down and their feathers are ripped out by hand. Plucking often tears the skin, leaving deep bleeding gashes which are sewn up with a needle and thread, and no pain relief is provided. A bird may be live plucked several times (up to 6 times a year) before slaughter.


Some feathers may come from geese raised for foie gras (fatty liver) production. These geese are force fed much more than they would voluntarily eat so that their livers become unnaturally large.


Some companies claim that they source their down after birds naturally moult, but this is only a very small portion of the down produced.


There is a Responsible Down Standard (RDS) sets welfare standards for ducks and geese used to provide down for products and provides certification. It prohibits live-plucking and force-feeding.


However, it is still down which is a duck’s or geese’s protection from the cold. Therefore, the most ethical thing to do would be to avoid down.


You can find kinder alternatives to down that are light and warm, these include:



-Primaloft (synthetic microfiber thermal insulation material)

-Thinsulate (synthetic fibre thermal insulation that is thin, light and warm)


Silk: Shocking method of production

Silk has long been considered a luxury fabric used for clothing, mainly tops and dresses. It is made from the cocoon of the domesticated mulberry silkworm, Bombyx mori (produces the vast majority (approximately 90%) of commercial silk). You may not know that silk is produced by an unethical method.


Method of conventional silk production:

Silk farmers harvest the moth’s eggs and over 6 weeks the larvae eat a diet of solely mulberry leaves. Then the worms spin cocoons to sleep in and begin the process of turning into moths. In the wild, moths break free from their cocoons when they are ready. However, in a farmed system moths are prevented from damaging cocoons by breaking free and causing a small hole in the cocoon (breaking the singular long silk strand), so pupae are killed by being boiled or steamed alive within their cocoons. The undamaged cocoon is unraveled by machine to leave a continuous strand ready for spinning.


Ahimsa or ‘peace’ silk is a more ethical type of silk compared to conventional silk. Moths are allowed to emerge from their cocoons naturally, and then the empty cocoons are processed. The silk strand would be broken into smaller strands which must be woven back together. However, there are no certification authorities that exist to guarantee that these standards are upheld. So even these silkworms may suffer by being forced out of their cocoons too early.

As silk moths have been domesticated and bred for silk production, over time they have become flightless, and are therefore unlikely to survive.


Types of Ahimsa silk include ‘Eri silk’ and ‘Tussar silk’.

-Eri silk: Involves the Eri moth creating a cocoon that never completely closes, so that they emerge without breaking it.

-Tussar silk: Wild as the silkworms can leave the cocoon before the cocoons are harvested from the forest.


Cruelty free alternatives to silk include:

  • Tencel (brand name of a material made from lyocell; it is derived from wood pulp & is produced through a closed loop process, meaning processing chemicals are reused)
  • Soysilk (made from the soybean residue produced during tofu manufacturing, usually produced through a closed loop process)
  • Rayon
  • Polyester
  • Nylon

Fish: The Silent Victims

The cries of abused animals result in sympathy and outrage, but fish are often overlooked as they can’t cry out in pain. However, fish can experience fear, pain and stress even though they are silent in their suffering.


From the wild:

When fish are pulled up by nets, many are crushed to death. Others suffer from burst eyes or swim bladders because of a sudden change in pressure as the nets are brought up to the water’s surface. The remaining fish will die a slow death from suffocation eventually. Many non-target animals are also caught accidentally in fishing nets including sea turtles, sharks and dolphins. They are discarded overboard and may suffer injuries or even die.

In addition, overfishing destroys the stability of marine environments. Scientists predict that current fishing rates could cause our oceans to be in a state of collapse by 2050.


From factory farms:

Fish are often raised in overcrowded factory farms filled with disease. These conditions cause stress and depression, pushing some fish to have stunted growth and float lifelessly on the surface. In response to disease, rather than giving them more space, the fish are often given antibiotics. This contributes to antibiotic resistance. Farmed fish also need to eat wild caught fish, which involves using more than what is produced.


In addition, fish can also be bad for your health. Fish can be contaminated with mercury, especially those higher up the food chain such as certain types of tuna.


Fortunately there are a growing selection of alternatives that are not only kinder to fish, but also better for the environment and your health:

  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Smashed chickpea salad (can replace tuna)
  • Mock fish including: Quorn ‘Fish free fingers’, Gardein ‘Golden fishless filet’, Vegie delights ‘Thai chilli & lime cakes’

And good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and seaweed. As a supplement flaxseed oil is a good alternative to fish oil.

Warmth in Winter is Without Wool

With more than one month of winter left in Melbourne, the cold still lingers in the air, making us reach for our wool jumpers, gloves and scarves without a second thought. But wool is not as warm as you may think, at least when it comes to cruelty to sheep.

Naturally, sheep grow just enough wool to insulate themselves against both cold and hot weather. However, genetic alterations and breeding has made sheep in the wool industry produce excessive amounts of wool. Shearing during the winter is common, particularly in southern Australia, where sheep will suffer from the cold and some will even die from the harsh winter weather, as many farms do not provide adequate shelter.

In addition, shearers often handle sheep roughly, cutting and wounding the sheep, in an attempt to shear quickly, as they are paid by the amount of wool rather than by the hour.

Furthermore, lambs are subjected to an even crueler procedure known as ‘mulesing’ to reduce flystrike. This involves the skin surrounding the tail stump being cut off, which often leaves bloody wounds. Barely half the lambs receive even short-term pain relief and barely any will receive veterinary care. In fact, contrary to its very purpose, the open wounds take time to heal and during this time the lamb is at increased risk of flystrike

With so many alternative fabrics that don’t involve this suffering, it should be easy to stay warm without wool.

Alternatives to wool (for knitwear) include:

  • Cotton
  • Polyester
  • Cotton & polyester blend
  • Acrylic
  • Acrylic & polyamide blend
  • Nylon
  • Viscose

So please show warmth to sheep who need their warm coat more than we do.