Patagonia Down Sweater

According to the international animal welfare organization Four Paws, Patagonia is using down feathers that have been plucked from live geese. Four Paws claims to have dug up evidence that Patagonia is buying down from a source in Hungary that practices live plucking. 

Down is either harvested after the goose has been killed or by what is called molt plucking. Molt plucking is about timing the feather plucking to coincide with the natural molting process of young geese, making the feathers easier and less painful to harvest. Although live plucking is illegal in some European countries, molt plucking appears to still be accepted. 

According to Four Paws, the reality is that whether or not the geese are molting, they are severely injured during the plucking process and in many cases demand stitches. The geese often become stressed and crush themselves to death in the corners of the barns.  

Four Paws is currently in conversation with Patagonia about this issue. I wonder what other outdoor companies get their down via live plucking of geese? What do you think- should all forms of live plucking be banned, molting or not? Will you still buy a down jacket or sleeping bag if you know it contains feathers plucked from a live goose?

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  1. Hi Amy,

    Before publishing your article, you should personally enquire both sides, i.e. Four Paws and Patagonia, on this issue first. You should give Patagonia a chance to make a response.

    On 12 December 2010, I sent this email to Four Paws and cc it to Patagonia (to know my opinion on this issue and to be fair to Patagonia, please be patient and read all the following content):


    I am from Hong Kong, and I bought a Patagonia Down Sweater hoody about two years ago.

    From my “dirtbag” life experience, I am sure that the down is still the most thermal efficient insulator, even though synthetic insulation technology has improved a lot in recent years. That’s the reason why I bought down jacket.

    (By the way, on this webpage your organization stated that “There are equally good products such as siliconised hollow fibres available.”:

    Be careful, because most if not all scientific data shows down is more thermal efficient than any synthetic insulation in dry condition. You should show scientific evidence to support your statement, otherwise it may reduce the credibility of your whole article.)

    As a customer but not a animal rights activist, I buy from Patagonia because of trust. I trust their claims that all their down is from animals which have been processed. After reading your organization’s article, I am not sure which side to trust. I can only see a handful of photos which your organization claims are the evidence. Frankly someone can argue that the photos are fake. Videos are more powerful but I can not find any on your website. I am not saying that you are faking the whole situation. What I am saying is you need to show slam-dunk smoking guns to make a perfect accusation against Patagonia. For the Patagonia fans to turn 180 degrees to support your organization, you must show strong evidence.

    Or why don’t your organization publicly invite Patagonia to hold a public meeting, in which both sides show their own evidence and customers/reporters can raise questions to each side? I am sure that Patagonia will be happy to show up.

    In short, up till now I don’t totally trust your organization’s accusation. But at the same time Patagonia is not 100% trustworthy because their arguments have weak pionts. (For example they claim the suppliers have certification, but even the name of it have not been disclosed.) So who’s the loser? Customers. They don’t know what to do and who to trust.


    About three days later, I received this email from Patagonia:


    Thank you for contacting Patagonia recently regarding the use of down in our clothing. At Patagonia, we believe in offering our customers total supply-chain transparency and we accomplish this through efforts illustrated on our Footprint Chronicles website ( Sometimes such radical transparency creates questions. We welcome these questions in an ongoing dialogue that benefits both our company and our customers.

    Unfortunately, sometimes mistakes are made and the wrong conclusions drawn. This is one of those instances. The animal rights group Four Paws is circulating erroneous information that states that Patagonia uses down obtained through a harvest process known as “live plucking.” This statement is in fact not true, and has not been true for more than a year. Furthermore, Four Paws has accused us of working with a subcontractor called Rohdex, which is also false. We have asked Four Paws to cease their erroneous campaign and print a retraction immediately.

    All Patagonia down clothing manufactured since September 2009 has used down harvested exclusively from birds killed for food, of which down is a by-product. Patagonia down is sourced through Allied Feather & Down Corporation and comes from Eastern Europe, specifically from goose farms in Hungary. These farms produce high quality down with fill-power that meets Patagonia’s stringent specifications. We have instructed our supplier, Allied Feather & Down Corporation, to purchase for us down obtained exclusively from slaughterhouses (again as goose down is a by-product of the food industry) to ensure that we are not buying live-plucked down.

    Based on Patagonia’s request, our down supplier has developed a certification confirming that our down does not contain live-plucked material. It states: “All raw materials used by Allied Feather & Down, and its suppliers, are from birds that are killed for the meat industry, where down and feathers are a by-product. All raw materials that have been collected are mechanically plucked from dead geese that were killed for food and do not contain any live-plucked material.”

    Regarding Rohdex: Allied Feather and Down confirmed that they have not purchased down from Rohdex for the last two years. The current Patagonia supply chain through Allied does not involve Rohdex in any manner.

    Furthermore, the goose farms in our supply chain are expected to meet EU standards for raising (98/58/EC), confining (2000/50/EC), and slaughtering (93/119/EC) animals for food. We will continue to research the processes used in our supply chain and act on what we find. And throughout it all, we will make this process transparent.

    Thank you again for contacting us and please be assured that we take the protection and welfare of animals very seriously.

    If you have any other questions please let us know, have a great day!

    Patagonia Customer Service

    However, until this moment, the only response I can get from Four Paws is this:

    Thank you for your email.

    I am on leave until 20th December but I will respond to your email as soon as possible.

    With all good wishes,



    Marie-Claire Macintosh
    Head of Competence Centre – Laboratory Animals

    Four Paws
    32-36 Loman Street

    I understand that many NGOs have very limited human resources, so I will give Ms. Marie 10 more days (20 days in total) to make a response. But I do not optimistic about this.

    So up till now, which side to trust? If I have to choose, I still trust Patagonia (but not 100%) rather than Four Paws. Frankly the published evidence from Four Paws is still very weak, and Patagonia’s transparency is still excellent.

    But will I buy down product again? Probably not. For a ordinary customer like me, the only way she/he can be 100% sure of not involving in live plucking is not buying anything made of feathers. The synthetic insulation technology is improving rapidly in these days and now its performance difference with down is not significant anymore. So not using down is the sacrifice I can bear. But it is not clear whether totally replacing down by synthetic insulation is an environmental friendly decision, because nowadays nearly all the best synthetic insulating materials are made of virgin but not recycled polyester.

    Well, I think I have said enough. Hope my reply will be helpful to you guys.

    Happy New Year.


  2. Hi Taylor,

    Thank you so much for sharing your email as well as the response from Patagonia. I am happy to see they have addressed the issue. I would love to see the response from Four Paws as well when/if it comes.

    It would be great to see the outdoor industry as a whole have an open discussion about and disclosure of their down production so that customers, like yourself, could be comfortable buying down products knowing they were made ethically.

    The more transparency from everyone the better!

    Thanks very much again for your comments and Happy New Year!


  3. Live plucking is better than what most Chinese-made sleepings bags have – ducks/geese killed solely for the down harvest.

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