Athleisure company lululemon claims to abide by core values that compel it to “elevate human potential,” act with honesty and integrity, and take full accountability for its choices and their impact. However, the company continues—in multiple ways—to capitalize cruelly on the suffering and exploitation of animals used for clothing. One of the ways lululemon deceives consumers about its stated principles is by selling products made with down.
The down filling in jackets often comes from abused birds who spend their entire lives suffering in filthy, crowded, and deadly conditions. That’s the message that PETA, as a lululemon shareholder, took to the company’s annual meeting in 2022 and again on June 7, 2023.
Two Questions Posed to lululemon About Down
At lululemon’s 2023 annual meeting, PETA ruffled feathers with two shareholder questions—one submitted on behalf of birds exploited in the down industry and another on behalf of a loyal lululemon customer and shareholder. The questions were meant to push the company’s leadership to stop deceiving shoppers with “responsible down” labels and ditch down entirely:
PETA entities have released nine exposés of the down industry. … Investigators saw and heard terrified geese shrieking as their necks were stretched out across a stump, then hacked at up to seven times before the birds were decapitated. A worker was filmed piercing conscious ducks’ necks with a knife and slicing off their legs as they struggled. … When will lululemon fully embrace its own values, take full accountability for its choices, and help end the torture and killing of countless birds by nixing down?
As a native Canadian, I have a particular fondness for geese and other waterfowl. I was horrified when I learned that these lovely and loyal birds, who mate for life and are protective of their partners and offspring, endure immense cruelty in the down industry. Birds whose down is used to fill lululemon’s puffy coats and vests typically spend their entire lives in dirty, dark sheds or on filthy feces-laden lots where they are unable to swim or fly. I’ve seen undercover video footage from so-called “responsible farms” where the bodies of dead ducks were left to rot among sick, limping, and bleeding birds. … Knowing that birds used in the down industry endure a lifetime of suffering, only to be violently slaughtered, how can lululemon continue to use a material that is completely at odds with the company’s core values and mission to elevate the world?
—Chris C. Allan
Why ‘Responsible Down’ Doesn’t Fly
The questions above were inspired by the findings of PETA Asia’s exposés of the down industry:
- One revealed that workers at duck slaughterhouses in Vietnam stabbed birds in the neck and cut off their feet while they were still conscious and struggling
- Another showed workers at a Russian goose farm beheading conscious geese with a dull axe
- Feathers from these facilities were later sold under the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), a misleading label that lululemon and other retailers use to make customers feel good about buying down products. The RDS is simply a marketing ploy that fails to protect animals
The concept of ahimsa—briefly defined as nonviolence toward sentient beings and closely connected to the practice of yoga—was once central to lululemon, even to the point of printing the word accompanied by silhouettes of various animals across its shopping bags. Through this shareholder action, PETA is calling on the company to ditch speciesist cruelty and live up to its stated principles by banning down.
More Abuse Behind the Use of Down at lululemon—and What to Wear Instead
Previously, lululemon obtained some of its down from China, where there are few to no regulations to protect birds used for down or penalties for abusing them. A PETA exposé of the down industry in China documented that workers left sick and injured chicks, geese, and ducks to die slowly. Investigators found dead birds decaying in crates and ponds or tossed outside like trash.
Geese and ducks exploited for down—including those sold under the RDS—are typically electroshocked and hung upside down in slaughterhouses, where their throats are slit and their bodies are dumped into scalding-hot water for defeathering. There’s no way to ensure that birds aren’t suffering and enduring agonizing deaths when they’re used for down.
THIS is where down feathers come from.
— PETA (@peta) March 14, 2015
PETA is calling on lululemon to live up to its claim of seeking an “elevated” world and use exclusively the high-tech insulating materials that it already offers in many of its jackets.
— PETA (@peta) June 9, 2015
PETA suggests using modern, cruelty-free insulating fabrics—such as PrimaLoft RISE and Bio, Ecodown, and EcoPlume, each made from recycled plastic; sustainably sourced wood-pulp fabrics like Lyocell; organic and sustainably sourced bamboo; and plant-based insulations like FLWRDWN, Flocus (made from kapok), and Vegeto (made from milkweed)—which are warm, cozy, and allergen-free. Unlike down, they don’t collect dust and mold, and most insulate even when wet.
What You Can Do
Selling down is inconsistent with lululemon’s promotion of compassion and environmental stewardship. Urge the company to take a kind and effective stance for geese and the Earth by ditching down.