Typically, ducks and geese are lifted by their necks, their legs tied, and their feathers are ripped out. The struggling birds often sustain injuries during plucking. They are then returned to their cage until they are ready to be plucked again. This process begins when the animals are 8 weeks old and is repeated at eight-week intervals until the birds are slaughtered.
Feathers are often plucked out of ducks and geese raised for food. Those raised for foie gras, especially, suffer terribly. They are force-fed—a funnel is inserted into each bird’s throat, and up to 6 pounds of a salty, fatty corn mash is pumped into the stomach each day—until the bird’s liver has ballooned to four times the normal size.
Synthetic alternatives to down are not only cruelty-free, they are also cheaper and, unlike down, retain their insulating capabilities in all weather conditions. For more information, see PETA’s factsheet on down.