40Lives stands for the 40 ducks and geese that are tortured, plucked or force-fed to make just one down-filled duvet for a bed. Help us stop this cruelty, and vote to say who is the worst retailer.

Nothing is how it seems

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The Cast

40 ducks and geese are tortured for one down-filled duvet.

Evi
Evi is a Koludzka goose from Poland. Her plumage was first plucked when she was 11 weeks old. It’s even worse for her parents – they will suffer the agony of being plucked alive four times a year for the rest of their lives.
Amy
Amy is Evi’s mother. Right now she’s suffering from severe injuries caused by a “plucker”. While plucking her, he dislocated her wing, and her wounds were just roughly stitched. She will be kept alive until the age of five. Apart from the down she has to give for duvets, she also has to lay eggs.
Erwin
Erwin was a Landes goose. His liver is considered a delicacy. After being force-fed 3 times a day for 3 weeks of his miserable life, he was slaughtered when he was merely 16 weeks old. His liver is now on the plate of a “gourmet” somewhere, his grey feathers are in a duvet.
Henri
Mulard duck Henri grew to become 14 weeks old. At the start of his life he was still able to run around freely, but after 11 weeks he was force-fed twice a day and shut in a cage with countless other ducks, where he scarcely had room to move. His sister was shredded shortly after being born, as only male ducks are used to produce foie gras.
Adam
Adam was a Toulouse goose from Hungary. After he was force-fed and slaughtered to produce foie gras, his plumage was plundered to fill a duvet.
Blutige Feder
Countless ducks and geese are horribly tortured every day for the bedding industry – a single down-filled duvet contains the feathers and down from 40 birds. Help us stop their suffering and vote for the retailer whom you think should be publicly named the cruellest.

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Behind the scenes

A life of suffering

Did you know that in our society, our peaceful sleep has the suffering of ducks and geese on its conscience? To fill a single duvet with down, 40 birds are tortured in the most appalling way. A great deal of down is still produced by the agonising practice of live plucking, or from birds that were used in the cruel production of foie gras.

Live feather plucking

There are two ways to gather down: by plucking birds that have already been slaughtered, or by the significantly more barbaric method of live plucking. As the name suggests, this involves plucking geese while they are alive – and this, when it comes to parent animals, occurs up to 16 times during the course of their lives. As live plucking is treated as piecework, speed is of the essence. This means that the pluckers are anything other than gentle with the birds. Up to 3000 birds may be plucked by hand in just five hours. They often suffer severe injuries, and their wounds are clumsily stitched, without any kind of pain relief.
In fact, live plucking is theoretically illegal within the EU, but a loophole in the law allows many farms to continue with the practice – including in Poland and Hungary, along with China, one of the largest producers of down outside Europe.

Foie gras

What gourmets see as a delicacy is hell for ducks and geese: foie gras. Up to three times a day a metal tube is rammed down the birds’ throats, and they are force-fed a mix of cooked maize and fat. As their livers are unable to process the large volumes of fat, they grow in volume by up to ten times within a few weeks.
This force-feeding lasts three long weeks, until the liver is fatty enough to be dispatched to gourmet restaurants as foie gras.
The ducks and geese are kept in appalling conditions, and are fed and made ill by mechanised systems. They are then slaughtered, and the down and feathers of these tortured birds end up in our pillows and duvets.
The great public choice award

The award nobody wants

We will name retailers who cooperate with questionable suppliers and cannot credibly exclude down originating from live plucking or foie gras production. To the cruelest company we are awarding the prize nobody would actually like to receive: the Blood Feather.

Vote now for the cruellest retailer.

Choose one of the nominees

Find out more and vote:

Special recognition

You can rely on these companies.

They do exist: good companies! Check out which firms in the UK reject down from live-plucking and foie gras production, and implement a reliable system of checks.
Thank you for voting! With your help, we have already been able to change a lot. During our campaign, a number of retailers have made a commitment to exclude down from live plucked and force-fed animals entering into their products by implementing the strictest available controls. Find out more here.
Bonus material

Help us stop these birds’ suffering.

Not all down involves torturing birds. We show you what to look out for when you buy down products, and which certificate you can trust. If you want to avoid animal products altogether, you can find out more here about animal-friendly alternatives to down.

Trustworthy companies

The following companies already implement the most reliable systems of checks available to exclude down from live-plucking and the foie gras production:

Trendsetter is one of the few companies in the UK that are leading by example. One of their three brands, The Fine Bedding Company already provides products in its shops that are audited through the strictest available traceability standard, the RDS. By 2017, all down products at the Fine Bedding Company will have been audited under this standard. By 2020, their two other brands, Nimbus and Kings and Queens as well as Trendsetter Home Furnishing Ltd as a whole will also be fully certified under that standard or a standard of equivalent stringency. Most of the bedding products Trendsetter offers are down-free.

Recently achieved

Next is the first shop in the UK to specifically require suppliers for its own brand to provide them with down from one of the strictest available audit system, the RDS. They have kick-started the process and have informed us that by 2018 all of the down in the final products of the Next brand will have been audited under that standard. By 2020, all the products in their shops will meet those requirements as well. Next also offers down-free bedding products.
The following companies have made a time-bound commitment to implement the most reliable systems of checks available to exclude down from live-plucking and the foie gras production:

The John Cotton Group has pledged to move to the strictest available audit standard, the RDS, for their Snuggledown and Slumberdown brands by 2018 and have officially added this commitment into their Company Policy.
The retailer Dunelm has committed to implementing the strictest available audit systems. By June 2019 all their products will be certified in line with those standards. They already have a policy in place to exclude down from live-plucked or force-fed animals but their new goal will enable them to better exclude cruel down.

The retailer John Lewis has committed to implementing the stricter standards in the sourcing of down and feathers by 2020. Their commitment also includes updating their public animal welfare policy as a first next step so that it also explicitly states that they exclude down from the foie gras production.

The retailer Argos has committed to implement the strictest possible safeguards and audits available to ensure to the highest extent that the down they source does not originate from live-plucked or force-fed animals. By year 2020, all the down in final products will be certified under the RDS/TDS or a standard or set of audits of equivalent stringency. Argos will amend our policy to include a statement on no force-feeding. Argos will be including supplier branded products as well as our own brand in this commitment and will disclose information with FOUR PAWS on their progress on an annual basis.

The White Company has confirmed that they commit to traceability by 2020 to RDS, TDS, Downpass 2017 or set of audits of equivalent stringency. The White Company does not accept down from live plucked birds and has committed to amend their policy to include a statement on no force- feeding. Following the campaign, they have committed to carry out an immediate review of their supply chain to better exclude cruelty.

Following our campaign, Debenhams has confirmed that they will require their suppliers to provide them with down that is sourced from supply chains that are credibly controlled within a period of approximately three months (under the Responsible Down Standard, Global Traceable Down Standard, the new Downpass 2017). Debenhams does not accept down from live plucked birds and has committed to amend their policy to include a statement on no force- feeding. This information should soon be accessible on their website.

Trustworthy companies

Thank you for all your votes! Our campaign has already shown results. The following retailers and their suppliers and brands have made commitments to implement the most reliable traceability systems within a given timeframe in order to exclude down from live plucking and force-feeding from their supply chains.

Matratzen Concord has committed, effective immediately, to only supply bedding products from brands which are certified under the RDS, TDS, Downpass 2017, Traumpass or audits of equivalent stringency. Traumpass is to be gradually readjusted to adhere to the Downpass 2017 in 2017/2018.
Dänisches Bettenlager has committed to only sourcing down and feathers from brands and suppliers that implement the Responsible Down Standard, Traceable Down Standard or an audit system or standard with an equivalent level of stringency, as of August 2017.

Roller has committed to only sourcing down and feathers from brands and suppliers that implement the Responsible Down Standard, Traceable Down Standard or an audit system or standard with an equivalent level of stringency, as of September 2017.

POCO has committed to only sourcing down and feathers from brands and suppliers that implement the Responsible Down Standard, Traceable Down Standard or an audit system or standard with an equivalent level of stringency (e.g. Downpass 2017), as of September 2017.

Trustworthy companies

Thank you for all your votes! Our campaign has already shown results. The following retailers and their suppliers and brands have made commitments to implement the most reliable traceability systems within a given timeframe in order to exclude down from live plucking and force-feeding from their supply chains.

Matratzen Concord has committed, effective immediately, to only supply bedding products from brands which are certified under the RDS, TDS, Downpass 2017, Traumpass or audits of equivalent stringency. Traumpass is to be gradually readjusted to adhere to the Downpass 2017 in 2017/2018.

Dänisches Bettenlager has committed to only sourcing down and feathers from brands and suppliers that implement the Responsible Down Standard, Traceable Down Standard or an audit system or standard with an equivalent level of stringency, as of August 2017.

Gans GmbH only receives down that is certified under the Responsible Down standard (RDS) since the beginning of 2016. Gans GmbH is working on an animal welfare policy which explicitly excludes down from live plucking or force-feeding.
Reiter Betten und Vorhänge has required its suppliers to sign a very strict committment in which they agree to exclude down from live plucking and force-feeding and has asked them to provide confirmation that they are implementing full supply chain controls. The retailer requires its suppliers to provide down that is audited under the RDS (Responsible Down Standard), TDS(Traceable Down Standard), Downpass 2017, or a set of audits or standards of equivalent stringency.

The company Kauffmann is one of the few down processors in Austria. They provide down to a number of well known retailers. Kauffmann has a policy against live plucking and force-feeding and has committed to the strictest controls to exclude down from cruel sourcing. As of 2016, the company has been sourcing a majority of its down from RDS certified companies. In order to ensure that their complete down supply is subject to the strictest controls, the supplier will become RDS (Responsible Down Standard) certified. The related audits will be finalized in Spring 2017. In addition to RDS audited down, Kauffmann sources Eiderdown as well as down from Austrian free-range geese, in which case, live plucking and force-feeding do not occur.

Mömax committed to only sourcing down and feathers from brands and suppliers that implement the Responsible Down Standard or Traceable Down Standard as of August 2017 to avoid down that originates from live plucking or force feeding to the best possible extent.

XXXLutz/Möbelix committed to only sourcing down and feather products from brands and suppliers that implement the Responsible Down Standard, Traceable Down Standard, Downpass 2017 or a set of audits of equivalent stringency, to avoid down that originates from live plucking or force feeding to the best possible extent.

The company Seibersdorfer is one of the few down processors in Austria and supplies down to well known retailers. Seibersdorfer has a policy against down from live plucking and force-feeding. The supplier has committed to fully excluding down from the cruelest practices. By 2018, the company aims to only offer down products that are audited under the Downpass 2017 so that it can exclude down from live plucking and force-feeding to the best possible extent.

Trustworthy companies

Thank you for all your votes! Our campaign has already shown results. The most important player in the down and feather industry in Switzerland, the Swiss Bedding Manufacturer’s Association, Verband der Schweizer Bettwarenfabriken (VSB) and key retailers and their suppliers and brands have made commitments to implement the most reliable traceability systems within a given timeframe in order to exclude down from live plucking and force-feeding from their supply chains.

The Swiss Bedding Manufacturer’s Association „Verband der Schweizer Bettwarenfabriken (VSB)” has confirmed to VIER PFOTEN in writing that the association, as well as its individual members, will get certified under the Downpass 2017. The companies: Albis Bettwarenfabrik AG, Billerbeck Schweiz AG, Dorbena AG Bettwarenfabrik and Kyburz Bettwarenfabrik AG will, following a phase-out period, better exclude live plucking and force-feeding through stricter controls, in line with Downpass 2017.

Matratzen Concord has committed, effective immediately, to only supply bedding products from brands which are certified under the RDS, TDS, Downpass 2017, Traumpass or audits of equivalent stringency. Traumpass is to be gradually readjusted to adhere to the Downpass 2017 in 2017/2018.

JYSK has committed to only sourcing down and feathers from brands and suppliers that implement the Responsible Down Standard, Traceable Down Standard or an audit system or standard with an equivalent level of stringency, as of August 2017.

Globus has committed to only offering down that is controlled under the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), the Traceable Down Standard (TDS), the DOWNPASS-Standard 2017 (pending improvements suggested by FOUR PAWS) or other audit systems and standards with an equivalent level of stringency.

Coop City already had policies in place which banned down from live plucking and force feeding as part of its sustainable sourcing policy. Now Coop City has confirmed, that as of December 2017 all brands and suppliers have to be certified under either of the RDS, TDS, Downpass 2017 or a set of audits of equivalent stringency.

Top Tip already has policies in place which ban down from live plucking and force feeding as part of its sustainable sourcing policy. Toptip has now confirmed, that within a transition period, all brands and suppliers it works with, have to be certified under either of the Responsible Down Standard, Traceable Down Standard, Downpass 2017 or a set of audits of equivalent stringency. The transition towards the strictest available standards will be completed by March 2018.

A number of other companies in Switzerland source their down and feathers from members of the VSB (Swiss Bedding Manufacturer’s Association) as well as suppliers who are in the process of implementing stricter traceability measures in order to provide better guarantees that live plucking and force-feeding are truly excluded. We call on these companies to publicly communicate their efforts and position on animal welfare and down as well as their progress towards full certification.

Why is it so difficult to trace the origin of down?

Down passes through a lot of hands before ending up in our duvets and pillows: from the parent farm to the fattening farm, then to the slaughter facility – where foie gras birds are also slaughtered – to the down washing facility, then to the manufacturers, where down from different facilities may be mixed. In short, the supply chains have very little transparency, and it is rare that brands completely exclude the possibility that the down they process has come from animals that have been tortured.

The down supply chain deception can happen at every stage!

FOUR PAWS calls for full transparency in down supply chains and regular, unannounced inspections of all farms and facilities.

What can I do?

When buying down duvets and pillows you should always check very carefully where the down comes from. Of course, the best way to avoid animal cruelty is to do without animal products altogether. These days there are excellent plant-based and synthetic alternatives – you’ll hardly notice any difference in comfort levels compared to down.

Alternatives

One of the most commonly knwon alternatives to down is Kapok – also known as “plant” down. This material is already used in bedding. Apart from Kapok, Primaloft®, a synthetic fiber, is also used as filling material. It has characteristics that are very close to down feather and is used in duvets and sleeping bags. Other alternatives include Lyocell, polyester, millet, linen (flaxseed), Tencel or spelt.
However, if you do still want to buy down, make sure that your chosen retailers inspect their supply chains transparently and thoroughly, and that they only work with suppliers whose farms practise neither live plucking nor force-feeding.

Are there audit systems and certificates or labels that I can trust?

There are a couple of certificates and quality labels that can make you rest easy about the origin of your down products. But take care! Even here there are a few black sheep that do not entirely exclude animal cruelty, as just because the down was only plucked after slaughter does not mean that the bird had not already been live-plucked or force-fed previously. We’ll tell you which labels and certificates you can rely on the most.
RDS
Positive
TDS
Positive
EDFA
Take care!
DOWNPASS
Take care!
TRAUMPASS
Take care!
The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) is one of the strictest standards in the area of animal welfare and the traceability of down. It completely excludes live plucking and force-feeding.

Under this standard, inspections are made annually and partly unannounced. Every batch of down is certified. Every facility producing RDS down is audited. Firms can also require parent farms to be covered by an optional module. Inspections are also made of washing facilities, storage, and processing locations in order to ensure traceability all the way to the final product.

The RDS is currently implemented by over 140 brands in the outdoor, fashion and sport retail industry.
The global Traceable Down Standard (TDS) is one of the strictest standards in the area of animal welfare and the traceability of down. It completely excludes live plucking and force-feeding.

The main strength of the TDS is that the inspection of parent farms is mandatory. These inspections are usually carried out unannounced.
The EDFA Codex claims that its members distance themselves from live plucking; however, neither moult plucking (which can be every bit as brutal as full live plucking) nor force-feeding are forbidden. We do not consider the current codex as a proper standard for animal welfare.
The traceability of the down is ensured only by documentation, rather than by inspections of farms and facilities. The EFDA Codex does not include specific requirements concerning the keeping conditions in fattening and parent farms.
The Downpass is a standard where traceability is largely based on inspection of documentation rather than physical inspection of farms. The main module does specify inspections of slaughtering facilities to verify that the down was sourced post-slaughter, but it does not include farm checks. If brands want farm audits or want to exclude foie gras they have to ask for additional modules. Consumers cannot clearly see which modules a company implements.
A new version of the Downpass standard entered into force in January 2017. Downpass 2017 prohibits both live plucking and force-feeding, which represents a significant improvement compared to the requirements in the earlier versions. However, we believe the inspections envisaged (only every two years, with little rigour as regards the choice of sampling methods) to be insufficient, and weak in comparison to stricter standards already present in the market.
The Traumpass Standard aims to guarantee high-quality down – but says nothing about how the animals were kept. Traumpass does verify that down does not originate from living birds, but this does not necessarily mean that the ducks and geese had not already been live-plucked or force-fed previously. On top of this, the Traumpass relies only on documentation, without inspections of farms.