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Goose Down, Humane?
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Michael Tauben
(mtauben) - MLife

Locale: My heart is in the hills
Goose Down, Humane? on 01/27/2010 21:19:17 MST Print View

I hope all the bright and committed people out there in Backpacking light land can help me. I have been an avid outdoors lover for many years and have in the last few years turned toward light weight backpacking to explore the outdoors. I have also always considered myself an environmentalist and animal lover. I am a vegetarian and do not wear leather. For many years I also did not use down products. I obviously knew of its light weight and compressibility but did not think it ethical. Then I was told, by a North Face rep. that older geese produce the best down and thus geese are not killed to gather down. I was happy and excited and I quickly bought a Montbell Down Jacket Nunatak down quilt and even down booties. Lately though I have been giving this shift some thought. Is the weight saving worth the moral uncertainty? Are geese really not killed for outdoor gear down? Even if they are not how traumatic and or painful is the harvesting process for the geese? I do wear wool and do believe animals can be "used" by humans in ways that benefit us and harm them as little as possible. So my question is does anyone out there know more about how down is sourced? Are the geese used in down for the outdoor industry really not killed? How painful or traumatic is harvesting for the geese? Is it akin to shearing merino wool sheep or is it torturous? I know Backpacking light carries many great lightweight synthetic garments and gear so no matter what I may look to that in the future. However, I would still like to know more about down. Rarely if ever do I condemn people for making the decisions they do I just want to be able to enjoy the outdoors, and carry as light a load as possible, both physically and psychologically.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Goose Down, Humane? on 01/27/2010 21:43:48 MST Print View

Interesting question. I always thought that down was either a by-product of the food industry or plucked and then left for replenishment, but I really don't know for sure. Either way, I hope they are treated in a humane way. Any knowledgeable people out there?

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Goose Down, Humane? on 01/27/2010 21:49:12 MST Print View

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Goose Down, Humane? on 01/27/2010 22:34:26 MST Print View


>> Bender <<
(Bender) - MLife

Locale: NEO
Re: Goose Down, Humane? on 01/27/2010 22:34:47 MST Print View

Isn't high quality down produced from more mature geese not intended for food production?

Edit: IDFL answers it all!

Edited by Bender on 01/27/2010 22:38:27 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Goose Down, Humane? on 01/27/2010 22:44:30 MST Print View

Some down is a by-product of the Chinese food industry - ducks and geese, obviously, in their first year. It is not first-quality, but the birds will be killed anyhow. The volume is large.

Some of the best down comes from Polish goose farms. The food geese are kept in one area (around a pond), and the down geese in another. The down geese are 'harvested' each year at moulting time, when the winter down is coming off anyhow. The down geese on those farms can live to 20+ years, and the down gets better as they mature. Sadly, these down farms are becoming fewer, due mainly to competition from Asia.

And there is a whole lot of down in between. But one thing is clear: the down is generally a by-product in the food chain. Maybe it is better to not waste the down?


Bradley Danyluk
(dasbin) - MLife
Eider on 01/27/2010 22:58:29 MST Print View

Eider duck down is probably the most humane. Coincidentally it happens to be the finest quality down available. It's harvested in Canada and elsewhere by people who take it from the nest, where the duck has naturally plucked its own down to line the nest and make it warm for ducklings. The harvesters then replace the down they took with natural or synthetic material back into the nest, so no ducks freeze their butts off. In some cases the harvesters just wait until the ducks have abandoned the nest so no replacement is necessary.
Unfortunately it's also ultra expensive due to the amount of labour required to do all this.

Edited by dasbin on 01/27/2010 23:03:00 MST.

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
800 fill power on 01/28/2010 02:37:19 MST Print View

Presumably the 800+ fill power down used in high end sleeping bags is the stuff most likely to be from the "harvested" (humane) or "dry plucked" (not humane?) sources. So to be sure you are only using food industry byproduct down stick with lower fill power! That's assuming the food industry animals are well treated of course ...

Edited by theronr on 01/28/2010 02:38:29 MST.

simon hackett
(minimalgear) - F

Locale: UK
live plucking on 01/28/2010 05:42:34 MST Print View

you've opened a can of worms for yourself here-live plucking of down would not fit with your vegetarian ethics- it would probably be beter for the geese to be killed in terms of being humane-search 'live plucking'. Some comapnies do ethical down- off the top of my head-PHD I think don't use down from live plucking maybe some others?

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Goose Down, Humane? on 01/28/2010 05:56:05 MST Print View

Hmmm, geese are such lovely and gentle creatures...much more so, than the cattle that make those juicy steaks I so very much enjoy.

Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: Goose Down, Humane? on 01/28/2010 06:30:07 MST Print View

Even if it is a can of worms, I'm glad you asked, Michael. I hadn't really thought of this much before. After reading the two articles there are still a few unanswered questions.

Does anyone know if there's a correlation between the fill power of down and the way it was harvested? I'd like to think that higher fill-power means more humane harvesting method, but that's just me wanting to justify everything about buying high quality gear.

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Goose Down, Humane? on 01/28/2010 06:52:23 MST Print View

If anyone feels guilty about their 750-900 fill power down articles, I can definitely relieve your burden.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Goose Down, Humane? on 01/28/2010 08:32:42 MST Print View

For those not interested enough to follow Franco's link, over 99% of our down is, indeed, a by-product of the food industry. I found it interesting that there's actually "too much" down on the market, to the point that some processors in France and China discard the down they process while preparing goose...

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Goose Down, Humane? on 01/28/2010 08:41:23 MST Print View

Hmmm, geese are such lovely and gentle creatures

Er, have you ever spent time with geese, especially the big ones? Not so gentle! They can be downright mean and scary! And the big ones can be the ones chasing you around!

I'd say cattle are a lot gentler than geese are.

Dewey Riesterer
(Kutenay) - F
chuckle on 01/28/2010 08:57:09 MST Print View

The move to synthetics, for "environmental" reasons is one which makes me chuckle, or, would, if it were not for the massive devastation of northern Canada and longterm poisoning by pollution of the fifth largest river system on the planet, the Athabaska River. This feeds raw Canadian "crude" to US refineries, which can then supply the Americans with "cheap" oil, which, in turn, is used to manufacture various synthetics.

The hunting/trapping/fishing culture that existed in these regions for roughly 10-12 millenia, did not cause pollution and the various animals were both far more numerous and wide-spread than is the case today.......

I prefer to kill and grow as much of my food as circumstances allow and avoid the huge "carbon footprint" associated with eating foods from foreign venues to supposedly be "environmentally friendly" by not eating what sustained humans here for eons before "vegans" were ever thought of.

I ue down, wool, leather and see to it that I support REAL ecologically sound sustainable activities and avoid polluting industries and products.

Edited by Kutenay on 01/28/2010 08:58:33 MST.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Goose Down, Humane? on 01/28/2010 08:58:06 MST Print View

I have no issue with wearing down items while taunting the 100-200 freaking geese that mooch at our lake.

Biting, aggressive, squawking, pooping machines is what they are! They fly in here in the early fall and stay till late spring - they chase the kids that use the park on the lake and leave the beach littered with their calling cards.

I became peaceful with using down years ago - same with leather. It is renewable and plentiful. And is so warm. And quiet.

Honk! Honk!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: chuckle on 01/28/2010 09:00:20 MST Print View

But let me add that Dewey has it right - and is how I feel. Local and sustainable is best - and that doesn't mean vegan/veg necessarily.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Goose Down, Humane? on 01/28/2010 09:18:26 MST Print View

>pooping machines is what they are!

Haha! That just reminded me of what my girlfriend's dad (who speaks German) calls them...Scheissmaschine!

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Goose Down, Humane? on 01/28/2010 09:23:43 MST Print View

Chinese geese are meaner than European geese!

I'm glad geese aren't still a dinosaurlike 8 ft. tall with razor teeth, we'd have problems worse than bears and wolves!

Donna Chester
(leadfoot) - M

Locale: Middle Virginia
Re: Re: chuckle on 01/28/2010 09:26:34 MST Print View

I'm with Sarah on both counts. And no, I am not giving up my nunatak quilt. I will bow in gratitude to every feather for keeping me warm.