Disclosure: Sabine is really fussy about pillows. They have to be just the right level of firm-but-soft. And their filling mustn’t come apart and ball up inside.
When it comes to these qualities, feathers and downs usually win. But they have an ugly track record of animal cruelty. Many of the feathers and downs in our pillows come from factory farms where birds are plucked alive, put back in their cages to grow more feathers, and plucked again until they die.
We shudder to think of it. Sleeping on a pillow filled with the downs of screaming ducks and geese would give us nightmares all the time.
So Sabine went on a quest for the perfect pillow: affordable, fluffy and guaranteed animal friendly. She spent weeks popping in and out of shops. Most shop assistants had never heard of the cruel practice before. Desperate for an answer, she turned online. Many retailers’ websites don’t include details about their feather and down suppliers, so she reached out to some support teams for answers.
Dear Sabine ,
Thank you for your email.
Our feathers are sourced from Romania and Poland and are hand picked by employee’s, as we saw frozen chickens in a supermarket and then contacted the supplier to see where all the feathers were going, as they were going to waste so we form a contract to have the feathers to stop waste.
I hope this information is sufficient enough, if not please do not hesitate to contact [company] Customer Service for further assistance.
Sam G seems to have been in a rush: he or she had no time for full stops and concrete details.
While it’s reassuring to learn that the feathers are hand-picked by employees (and not by some random stranger or machine), that doesn’t say anything about whether the birds are still alive at that point. And while the reference to food production waste implies the birds may be no longer be aware of their being plucked, it’s by no means certain. The countries of origin for the feathers and downs don’t sound very promising: live plucking of birds is forbidden in the European Union, but the ban isn’t strictly enforced everywhere.
According to Sam, the reason why employees (employed by the manufacturer?) hand-pick the feathers can be traced back to an excursion to a supermarket that sold frozen chickens. However, it’s usually goose and duck down that’s used in pillows and duvets. This doesn’t add up.
Sam goes on to explain how they found their suppliers. It all sounds a bit unprofessional, a bit Apprentice-style: as if the team hit a corner shop to buy stuff for their own store. The general idea is great, and we applaud them for eliminating waste. But there’s just not enough information about the birds’ welfare — for all we know, they could have been kept in tiny cages and force-fed to make foie gras.
The trouble is, Sam works for a company that probably cares about their ethics. Their advertising and production methods suggest this business is aware of their environmental footprint and working hard to improve it. Yet their customer support reply isn’t “sufficient enough” to communicate their ethics and build trust in their feather-and-down supply chain.
There’s lots we can do to make sure your support team can confidently write about the ethics of your company:
From Scratch is here to support your company’s mission through writing, training and fresh ideas.
All based on linguistics, psychology and research — because customer experience shouldn’t depend on personal opinion.
Responsible Down Standard: Responsible Down Standard Wakes Up An Industry
Written question to the European parliament: Live plucking of geese