Birds live-plucked at farms part of the 'Responsible Down Standard'

London - The authencity of the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), an certification from the Textile Exchange which aims to ensure the best practices in animal welfare are carried out on bird farms which supply down and feathers, has be cast into doubt following an undercover exposé from PETA.

The animal rights' organization visited geese farms in China, the source of 80 percent of the world's down, which have connections to retail suppliers holding the RDS certification and found countless cases of live-plucking. This is a process which sees the birds feathers ripped from their skin, painfully and cruelly, several times before the bird is finally slaughtered. Live-plucking is "prohibited" by the RDS, which stresses that the "welfare of the birds must be respected at all times: from hatching to slaughter."

Birds live-plucked at farms part of the 'Responsible Down Standard'

However, under the RDS suppliers are allowed to handle live-plucked down, raising numerous concerns regarding the legitimacy of the RDS certification. The RDS also which stresses that "the entire supply chain is audited by a professional, third party certification body" and that only products which contain 100 percent certified down carry the RDS logo. Apparel labels which carry the RDS certification include H&M, Columbia and The North Face.

A representative from Jilin City Bailing Down Product Co., one of the largest feather and down exporters in Northeast China, confirmed they receive feathers and down from a cooperative in the exposé. "The plucking is done in secret; we're unwilling to pluck openly", said the representative. "[W]e advertised that it's all plucked after slaughter – nobody dares to buy it if you say it's live-plucked", which again raises concerns with the RDS certification.

Birds live-plucked at farms part of the 'Responsible Down Standard'

"There's simply no guarantee that the feathers inside any jacket or pillow weren't ripped out of a screaming goose's skin", commented PETA Managing Director Ingrid Newkirk. "PETA is calling on kind retailers and consumers to ditch down in favour of high-tech synthetics that are compassionate, warm and hypoallergenic – and even insulate when wet." This way, argues PETA, retailers can assure consumers that their garments are 100 percent animal cruelty-free.

Warning: Graphic images below, viewer discretion is advised

Photos: Courtesy of PETA US, from expose