For those who are rightly concerned over the animal welfare ramifications of buying a down jacket, here’s the word from Webtogs on how our brands are adopting a more ethical approach to down.
The outdoor gear industry has been shaken numerous times over the past few years by scandals surrounding the maltreatment of birds in the down and feather supply chain. Because the majority of down used in outdoor clothing production over the past few decades has been a byproduct of food production, (not in itself a bad thing) the practice of force-feeding geese to fatten their livers for foi gras has been commonplace, in what have until recently been comparatively unregulated and untraceable down supply chains. Another cruelty inflicted on farmed geese and ducks has been live-plucking, designed to maximize the amount of down that can be obtained from each bird. The outcomes of both practices are animals left with terrible physical and psychological scars, and in most cases a down product of inferior quality to that taken from ethically reared, humanely slaughtered birds.
Environmental charities such as Greenpeace have campaigned vigorously over the past decades to bring these horrific abuses to an end, and as public outcry has increased, and finally, it seems that many brands have taken notice. here at Webtogs we’re eager to stock ethical down brands wherever possible, and are equally keen to spread the word that their down supply chains aren’t what they used to be. Foremost amongst our brands in regulating the down they source, is Mountain Equipment.
Mountain Equipment have introduced their ‘Down Codex’ down standard, which rules that birds must be kept in good condition, allowed to roam freely, slaughtered humanely, and must on no account be force fed or live-plucked. Mountain Equipment conducts regular audits of its suppliers in partnership with the Independent Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL), to confirm that the standards of their Codex are being upheld. If standards fall below guidelines then new suppliers must be sought, to be acquired within six months of a failed audit.
Montane, another of Webtogs’ most popular British brands, has also devised an ethical code of conduct for the down product it uses. The code covers issues including child labour, health & safety, the working environment, as well as the prevention of cruelty to animals. All Montane down is checked by their specialist down agent before use, which ensures that it is not sourced from live-plucked, force-fed, or maltreated birds.
Even The North Face, criticised by Greenpeace in 2012 for their usage of down from force-fed geese, has made great efforts to reform their supply chain. The North Face has “created a Responsible Down Standard that addresses animal welfare issues and traceability in the down supply chain”, in collaboration with Control Union certifications, which specialises in all manner of certifications, including those on animal welfare. The North Face in tend their Responsible Down Standard to be applied to all down sourced by the company by the end of 2014: undoubtedly a massive step forward for what is the biggest name in the global outdoor market.
It would be false to say that the ethical issues within down supply to the outdoor clothing and equipment market have been completely solved. Abuses are still occurring, and whilst force-feeding for foi gras remains legal across much of the world (thankfully it is outlawed in the UK), brands must remain vigilant. Having said that, the situation is undoubtedly improving, and as the most progressive outdoor brands pioneer further strategies for monitoring the welfare standards of down birds, Webtogs will be able to bring customers more and more ethically, sustainably sourced down jackets.