Down feathers are usually harveted from the breasts of birds, particularly geese. Usually this happens at the time of slaughter of the animal. The details of how to get the feathers could be considered quite graphic, so I’ll just provide a link to where you can read more about it if you so choose.
Down is a layer of soft feathers right next to a bird’s skin. It is harvested from birds in several ways. Often it is collected from birds during their slaughter for meat. Birds that are not slaughtered are “live plucked”, a process that animal rights groups object to because it is painful for the birds and causes them stress.
Eiderdown, which comes from Eider Ducks, is not collected directly from the birds. The animals use down to line their nests and the down is then collected from the nests by hand. The majority of Eiderdown comes from Iceland where Eider Ducks are a protected species. Proponents of the industry say it is sustainable and environmentally friendly; a previously overhunted species is protected, the ducks aren’t harmed or disturbed by the harvesting, and it provides jobs. The Canadian nonprofit Societé Duvetnor Ltée actually funds itself by collecting eiderdown. While harvesting the down, the organization also collects important data about the ducks. Animal rights groups object, saying the down is better left insulating the ducks’s eggs.
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