Do you know the true cost of your winter jacket?
The start of the winter season often has many of us in search of warm, puffy jackets or woolen sweaters. However, there are numerous concerns about animal welfare related to the manufacturing of winter clothes, including wool and down production. With increasing numbers of Australians wanting to buy ethically, it can be difficult to identify the green and red signals to look out for in the area of animal well-being. The good news is that there are a growing number of animal-welfare-friendly options available. This is what you should look for when shopping.
Who doesn’t enjoy being swaddled in a puffy jacket to help you get through those cold days? Down jackets have long been thought of as the most effective choice to keep you warm in winter. But is this actually the case, and at what price?
The Down is the feathers’ soft layer close to a duck’s or goose’s skin. They are located on the bird’s chest and the belly. Goose and ducks are raised for meat production, and the feathers of down are considered to be a valuable byproduct of these industries. China is the biggest manufacturer of goose and duck feathers, providing a large portion of the down supply to the world. However, in the majority of instances, down feathers are taken after slaughtered birds are killed (due to the fact that it is banned in most countries, including Australia). In some areas of the world, down is collected via live plucking. Live plucking is the process of having birds individually captured and then having their down removed by force that causes skin injuries and other wounds. Live plucking can expose birds to pain, suffering, and stress due to insufficient management and handling. It also results in tissue and skin injury from the plucking.
The RSPCA opposes the collection of down when ducks and geese live. Live plucking can expose birds to negative outcomes for their welfare that are not acceptable (which could be avoided if the Down could be collected in a byproduct after slaughter. Conscientious consumers can ease the suffering of these birds by making informed buying choices. Consider, for instance, the increasing number of synthetic alternatives that are often constructed entirely or in part from recycled materials from several famous brands that are similar, if not more insulating than down. If you’re contemplating buying bedding or a jacket lined with down, be sure to search for items where down is sourced as a byproduct of production after the birds were killed. Responsible Down gives a complete listing of companies that are certified in accordance with the Responsible Down Standard or inquire with the retailer for their certifications and requirements for animal health and welfare.
Woolen jumpers are another popular winter staple, but not all woolly sweaters are made with the same standards of animal welfare.
The majority of wool products manufactured in Australia can be made from sheep that were mauled. Mulesing is a painful procedure that involves cutting crescent-shaped pieces of skin around the hindquarters as well as the tail areas of a lamb with sharp shears in order to avoid a flying strike. In Australia, it is permissible to carry out mulesing without any pain relief in every state and territory except Victoria, in which the need for pain relief following mulesing is a requirement.
Mulesing can cause severe pain, suffering, and discomfort for lambs. Even if relief from pain is offered, some lambs will experience intense to chronic discomfort for a few days or weeks following the procedure. It is not a good idea to perform a system such as this, which isn’t acceptable since there are other options readily available. Australia is the only country to use mulesing for surgical procedures.
Merino sheep are a wrinkled breed thought to produce higher-quality wool and even more, which has led to the overreliance on Merinos for wool-based products in Australia. It is now clear that the amount of wrinkles that sheep suffer from does not affect the quantity of wool they make, and, in fact, their wrinkled skin is what makes the Merino breed extremely vulnerable to flystrike. It makes sense to Australian wool farmers to shift their flocks to different breeds of sheep resistant to flystrike. It’s an easy solution that can be accomplished through the industry in just a couple of years.
The RSPCA is in favor of expanding breeding programs to breed sheep resistant to flystrike as a way to limit the impact of flystrike. Mulesing is still an option, but the use of pain-relieving medications is a must. Producers must be required to identify their Mulesing Status through the National Wool Declaration.
Conscious consumers can help by purchasing wool products that are not mulesed. A number of brands, like Country Road and David Jones, have committed to moving away from wool from animals that have been mauled. Suppose your favorite brand hasn’t yet stated its position regarding mulesing and the welfare of sheep. In that case, we suggest getting in touch with them directly to learn more what their policies regarding animal welfare.
With brands becoming more conscious of the importance of ensuring the welfare of animals, it’s becoming more and more easy for compassionate and aware consumers to buy from companies that place the welfare of animals as a top priority. The RSPCA has created a variety of responsible sourcing guides to assist consumers in understanding what to look out for when buying products and how to recognize certain red flags on labels. Make sure that each purchase is an opportunity to advocate for animals and affect their lives to the benefit of animals.