Animal welfare issues
Geese are often plucked several times during their lives. Especially parent animals used solely for the production of offsprings that are then used for the production of fattening geese and ducks; these animals then can be plucked up to 16 times in their lives. Due to the painful plucking, wounds occur whilst broken wings are often a consequence of rough handling. Birds also show signs of fear and distress after being plucked and are then given anti stress-medication. It is often claimed that during moulting, when feathers and down hang loosely on the skin, they can be harvested in an animal friendly way. There are reasons why this cannot work in practice, namely because not all feathers and down of one bird are at the same moulting stage. In addition not all birds in a single farm of several thousand animals moult at the exact same time. As a result unripe feathers and down that are still connected to blood vessels and skin are plucked. Thus the majority of animals will be at risk of pain and suffering during the process of live-plucking.
Live plucking is not the only animal welfare problem that may be hidden in down. Gourmets around the world still value the so called Foie Gras (=fatty liver) Especially around Christmas stuffed liver can still be found at plates and buffets. The practice of force feeding is used for the production of foie gras/fatty liver. A tube is inserted into the animals’ throats (which often already causes wounds) and a large amount of feed is pumped directly into the stomach through the use of a pneumatic device. Geese and ducks are force fed 2 - 3 weeks before slaughter 3 – 4 times a day. Moreover, they are then kept in cages or in very restricted space. The result of this procedure is a liver 10 times bigger than normal – a severely and pathologically altered organ. As a result animals suffer from severe health problems and some of them even die during the process of force-feeding or transport to slaughter.