‘Responsible Down’ Committee Blasted for Secrecy, Failing to Protect Animals

PETA Withdraws From Workgroup That’s More Interested in Protecting Companies Than Ducks and Geese

For Immediate Release:
February 15, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Lubbock, Texas

After learning that the Textile Exchange’s (TE) misleadingly named Responsible Down Standard (RDS) International Working Group (IWG) Charter requires a confidentiality agreement and allows discussions to be off the record, PETA sent a letter today to TE and dozens of global retailers who sit on the IWG calling foul on the shady lack of transparency and withdrawing its participation in the group.

In the letter, PETA also notes that the RDS already requires only 50 percent compliance with “minor” requirements, which allows suppliers to get away with practices that systemically harm animals—including punching holes in birds’ feet; clipping their wings; declawing, dumping, and throwing hatchlings; and failing to provide them with protection from extreme weather conditions or predators. PETA points out that the confidentiality agreement reveals a further bias toward the interests of companies, suppliers, and producers that profit from down rather than a commitment to animal care.

“PETA has pushed the committee since day one to act to reduce suffering, but it’s clear that it’s focused on protecting companies, not animals,” says PETA Director of Corporate Affairs Anne Brainard. “PETA will continue to work directly with companies to urge them to ditch down and embrace warm and sustainable feather-free materials that no animal has to suffer and die for.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to wear”—notes that there’s no such thing as “responsible” down because, no matter what efforts are made to reduce cruelty, all birds suffer and are slaughtered in this industry.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

PETA’s letter to the Responsible Down Standard International Working Group follows.

February 15, 2018

Dear Members of the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) International Working Group (IWG),

After reviewing the charter, it’s clear that Textile Exchange is not, in fact, “committed to an open and transparent process,” as it claims.

The charter requires that members agree to the Chatham House Rule, whereby each must “treat any information that is shared … as confidential,” and states that “neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.” Even more alarming is that the charter allows discussions to be held entirely “‘off the record.’”

That is not transparency.

As you know, the RDS currently mandates only 50 percent compliance with the “minor” requirements for certification, which allows suppliers to engage in practices that harm animals. The announced visits as well as the optional parent farm certifications are appalling. And now the IWG is permitting its members to hide behind the Chatham House Rule, further revealing that there is a bias in favor of those who profit from the sale of down rather than a focus on what the standard is meant to do—protect birds.

Of course, that begs the question: What are members saying that they don’t want to be attributed to them?

Stakeholders have already voiced concerns regarding cost and expressed apprehension that farmers may find the criteria too restrictive. They’ve also suggested that parallel production at slaughterhouses can’t be enforced, that it would take too much time and effort to inspect parent farms where live plucking is rampant, and that certain requirements would be inconvenient.

PETA has worked from the very beginning, in 2013, before Textile Exchange was even involved, to aid in the development of the RDS, and we’ve participated during each revision, including by providing point-by-point feedback, but our extensive suggested revisions have never been implemented. We had hoped to participate in this one as a voting member, because history shows that the revision process prioritizes the interests of those who profit from down. Thus, our participation as anything less than a voting member is meaningless.

It’s abundantly clear that this process lacks transparency and fails to protect birds.

Therefore, PETA cannot sign this charter and will communicate directly with companies and the public about its lack of transparency and the potentially fraudulent claims of the organization and those businesses that claim to be “responsible” or “humane.”


Noelle Grain

Senior Corporate Liaison

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