Down consists of bird feathers. In principle it could be sourced from feathers that birds have lost naturally, so it should not require to kill or hurt any animal. Are down feathers typically harvested in an animal-friendly way, or are they more typically from major farms involving animal mistreatment?

Wikipedia contains some text on live plucked down being outlawed, but it doesn't mention the alternative "regular" way. If they kill the bird before plucking the down that means down is no better or worse than leather or fur.

2 Answers 2


Down is almost always collected from a live bird or from a bird killed for meat.

There are 3 main ways:

  • Live plucking, which you seem to already know about. The feathers are plucked from the live birds. This is done multiple times, until the bird is either slaughtered for meat or dies from the process of plucking.

  • Post mortem collection, where the feathers are removed from birds killed for the meat.

  • Gathering the feathers, generally the most humane way. These feathers are taken while the birds are molting. However, this almost always involves removing the feathers from the birds manually, though it's gentler. It can be combined with live-plucking often.

See here for more information.

But yes, it almost always involves hurting the birds if not killing them.


Eiderdown is collected from the eider nests. Eiders are a duck that live on northern European and American coasts. They line their nests with the soft feathers from the duck's breast. The original nest material is replaced with straw so the duck can continue to incubate the eggs, or the nest is collected after the ducklings have hatched.

Eiderdown collection involves minimal or no suffering, but is expensive.

  • 3
    Can someone explain the downvotes? Feb 1, 2017 at 10:41
  • 1
    I did not downvote, but perhaps the downvoters would like to see this answer backed up with evidence / sources.
    – gerrit
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:49

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