A unique new website has launched which shows consumers how some of the world’s biggest outdoor clothing and equipment brands are performing in terms of the animal welfare standards in the down they use in their products.
With the ‘Cruelty Free Down Challenge’, FOUR PAWS is inviting top outdoor brands like Vango, Kathmandu, Fjällräven, Jack Wolfskin, Mammut, Mountain Equipment, The North Face, Patagonia, and Vaude to take on the traceability challenge. According to the quality of their down traceability standards, they will be placed at different levels on a symbolic mountain. Five steps must be fulfilled to reach the summit. As a company satisfies the next criterion, it can move up the mountain. If a brand reaches the summit, it means they can prove as far as possible that their down did not come from live-plucked or force-fed birds.
The international animal welfare organisation advises outdoor equipment producers about traceability and transparency in down supply, and over the years has worked with leading oudoor brands to implement proper traceability processes.
Nina Jamal, farm animal expert at FOUR PAWS, said: “Tracing down all the way back to its source is a major challenge. Even when manufacturers emphasise that their suppliers can claim an ethical origin for their down, this is rarely guaranteed. The system is complex, with various processes and production stages, often in different countries. Many controls are still lacking. However, some brands have recently started developing traceability systems for their down.
“Our long-term goal is that brands no longer use any down from birds that have endured these procedures. This is the only way these cruel practices can be removed from the whole production chain. This new tool aims to keep companies focused on continually improving their standards of animal welfare. Consumers will get a good idea of which brands have begun to really work towards ethical down production.”
To pass the first level of the challenge, companies must define traceability as a corporate goal. At the second level, they should already be checking farms to make sure they are not force feeding or live plucking birds. To reach levels three to five, firms must take further measures to improve traceability. An example of this is avoiding parallel production (slaughtering birds that have already been plucked together with birds that have not, which can lead to mixing of the down). Another example is inspecting farms unannounced, or also including parent birds in the monitoring system – as these birds may have been plucked up to sixteen times in their lives. The more precautions that are taken, the more the animal suffering can be avoided.
For more information about the ‘Cruelty Free Down Challenge’ visit: www.down.four-paws.org