A new online initiative aimed at encouraging outdoor labels to take on stricter regulations regarding their down feather supply chain whilst showing customers which retailers source down from animal-friendly suppliers has been launched by international animal welfare organization Four Paws.
Dubbed the “Cruelty Free Down Challenge,” the initiative consists of a new website that shows consumers which of the world's largest outdoor apparel labels take animal welfare standards into consideration in the down feathers they use in their products and invites other brands to take on the traceability challenge.
Four Paws teams up with leading outdoor labels to launch the "Cruelty Free Down Challenge"
Depending on the quality of the down traceability standards used by brands such as Vango, Kathmandu, Fjällräven, Jack Wolfskin, Mammut, Mountain Equipment, The North Face, Patagonia, and Vaude, will then be placed at different levels on a symbolic mountain made by Four Paws.
In order for brands to reach the top of the mountain, five separate steps must first be completed and in order to move up a level, labels must first satisfy the criteria. Once a brand has reached the summit of the symbolic mountain, it signifies that they are able to “prove as far as possible” their down was not sourced from live-plucked or force-fed birds, cruel practices that are carried on fowl for the foie gras.
“Tracing down all the way back to its source is a major challenge”, said Nina Jamal, farm animal expert at Four Paws. “Years of research have given the international animal welfare organization the expertise to advise outdoor equipment producers about traceability and transparency in down supply, and in the past few years the organization has worked with several leading outdoor brands to implement proper traceability processes."
“Even when manufacturers emphasis 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. Our long-term goal is that brands no longer use any down from birds that have endured these procedures...this new tool aims to keep companies focused on continually improving their standards of animal welfare. However, some brands have recently started developing traceability systems for their down.”
In order to pass the first level of the challenge, labels must first define traceability as a corporate goal. At the second level, the brands are asked to ensure the farms they source from do not force feed or live pluck birds. To move onto levels three to five, companies must then take on additional measures to improve traceability, such as avoiding parallel production which see birds slaughtered together with birds who have been plucked, and including parent birds in the monitoring systems, as these birds may have been plucked up to sixteen times in their lives.
Fjällräven, The North Face and Patagonia taken on Four Paws' "Cruelty Free Down Challenge"
A number of outdoor retailers have already taken on the challenge, including Fjällräven, who is close to the mountain's summit, Patagonia and the North Face. “The disrespectful treatment of animals is not acceptable for us,” commented Aiko Bode, chief sustainability officer at Fenix Outdoor, parent company of Fjällräven. “[We have] always objected to any kind of cruelty to animals in the course of production...this is why full traceability is of the highest priority for us when it comes to animal products and we are continuously developing ways to ensure it is implemented.”
Doug Freeman, chief operating officer at Patagonia added: “We appreciate Four Paws’ leadership on this issue and their recognition of Patagonia’s hard work over many years to develop and fully implement the highest independently certified standard for animal welfare, open to the entire industry. Now that we've achieved the tough standard of 100 percent traceable down and started raising awareness among consumers about the realities of conventionally sourced down, we want to encourage all other companies to settle for nothing less in their own supply chains.”
“That’s why Patagonia partnered with the international certification body NSF to create the Global Traceable Down Standard, providing a road map for those seeking to meet the highest public bar possible – including audits at the parent farms, where live-plucking is most prevalent, and absolutely no mixing of down. We look forward to working collaboratively to make the industry standard the strongest standard.”
Photo 1: Geese suffering live plucking
Photo 2: Four Paws symbolic mountain at http://down.four-paws.org/