By David Stenerud
Denmarks Radio (DR) sent a documentary called "plucked to the skin" in October last year. The documentary was also sent on NRK (FBI) in January, and showed how geese in Poland and Hungary were tied and held between the knees of pluckers while their feathers were ripped out of their bodies.
To the defence of this practice it is said that the feathers are loose during the sheding period 3 to 5 times a year. This defence was strongly rebutted from biologists who appeared in the documentary. Professionals meant that the tame geese, like the wild ones, merely shed their feathers once a year. Also it was pointed out that, anyway, one has to use force to get the feathers out, since the whole cover is not loose at the same time.
Reactions of loathing
The documentary has created harsh reactions, not only among animal rights people, but also ordinary people - and the business itself. We were shown how people in the trade were making faces of loathing as they saw the footage and heard the sound of live-plucking of white geese in Poland.
Everyone reacted to the brutal and obviously painful treatment of the birds. This was also the fact for the Dane Ib Fagerlund which is the chairman of EDFA:
- Yes, it didn't look good, he admits to NorWatch. However he defends the practice; he feels that the episode that DR filmed is not representative. Also he rebutes the allegation from the biologists that the geese shed their feathers only once a year.
- I don't know if there are that many tame geese in the UK, he says ironically - refering to a british biologist that spoke in the documentary.
- I can't understand where she gets her knowledge from. Anyway what she says is not correct, the trademan says.
- No requirement
NorWatch originally contacted the EDFA chairman to confirm the allegations from managers John G Østereng of Norsk Dun and Reidar Hove of Bergen Dun. These two Norwegian pillow manufacturers thought that they signed a compulsory contract in October, through EDFA, that they were not to trade with live plucked down and feather.
But when we talked with Secretary General of EDFA Juliana Hedderich, we got another version. Hedderich insistingly defended the practice and said that the Danish documentary show a false picture. And:
- It is not a requirement for our members not to trade with live-plucked feathers.
Chairman Ib Fagerlund confirms this picture, and clears the misunderstanding:
- What the members signed upon this october is that if live-plucking is to happen, it must be without inflicting pain or injury to the animal, he explains.
When NorWatch contacts John G Østereng of Norsk Dun, he recognises the misunderstanding.
- But we have been opening our eyes to this problem internally and can guarantee to our customers that there is no live-plucked down and feathers in our products, he answers to NorWatch.
Reidar Hove of Bergen Dun goes even further:
- It was at some point talked about trading in down with Hungary, but we chose not to, even if we got guarantees that the birds were not to be plucked alive. We do not want these products and take no chances, he explains.
Norsk Dun contributes to approximately 80 percent of pillow manufacturing in Norway. Bergen Dun accounts for the remaining percentage
Polish and Hungarian down in Norway
None of the managers dear say how common live plucked down is in Norwegian stores.
- Many chains import their own pillows, so it is impossible to be certain.
Last year it was imported pillows and other down products from Poland to the amount of 470.000 NOK and down and feathers loose weight to the amount of 150.000 NOK, shows numbers that NorWatch has retreived from Statistics Norway. From Hungary the import in down and pillows amounted to 430.000 NOK.
The figures represent only direct import, but triangular trade also occurs: The Norwegian market imports considerable amounts of pillows from Denmark - which in turn imports goose-down from Poland.
60 percent of goose-down and feathers from Hungary and Poland are assumed to be live plucked.
Facts: Down in Norway
Norsk Dun and Bergen Dun is behind most of Norwegian pillow production. Both companies are owned by Danish down giants: Norsk Dun AS is owned by Nordisk Fjær A/S, while Bergen Dun AS is controlled by Ringsted Dun A/S. Norsk Dun AS (Nordisk Fjær Norge A/S) had a turnover of 67 million NOK in 2000, while Bergen Dun AS stopped at 9,6 milion. Both companies admits that they mainly get their raw products from slaughter-houses in Central-Europe.
Norwatch Newsletter 1-2/02