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More Traceability Of Down

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The North Face Company (TFN) is following what Patagonia is doing with their traceability of down, also from cradle to grave. Only TNF has taken it much further. They want to have, and I quote, a “Responsible Down Standard that addresses animal welfare and traceability and will implement it across its global supply chain next year”. Having read this opening paragraph I wondered about animal welfare. If the animal is killed where is the welfare for the animal?

They have engaged two companies to evaluate the welfare of the animals as relates to their “down supply chain.” I quote: “Control Union Certifications is an accredited third-party certification body with expertise in auditing animal welfare and farming practices.” Do they certify that the animals have received counseling before they have their heads chopped off? Are the animals told they will get a fine last meal? Or what is the welfare for the animal? The second company is Textile Exchange which is, and I quote: “a global non-profit dedicated to sustainability with expertise in textile standard development and management.” What are they going to sustain? The geese remains? Otherwise they do not say.

They further state that the “vast” bulk of the down used to make sleeping bags, parkas, and other outdoor products comes from feathers that are a byproduct of the commercial foie gras industry concentrated in Eastern Europe. That statement I find very hard to believe. The Chinese eat more of these birds that have down than every other country in the world, and I am sure that is where the greatest amount of down used in these products comes from. The world market for foie gras is quite small. I do not know where you can buy it in the USA outside of a few specialty retailers. But what do I know?

The article further states; “During the 2013 primary down harvesting seasons, teams inspected hatcheries, farms, slaughterhouses, collectors, pre-processors, processing facilities, and garment manufacturers in Eastern Europe and Asia to evaluate the feasibility of implementing an animal welfare and traceability standard”. Thus far each and every paragraph of this article states “animal welfare,” which I just don’t get. The article goes on to say: “The teams also interviewed experts and reviewed documentation practices at each of these locations to better understand their processes.” I am imagining the conversation that took place at the slaughterhouse: "You kill the birds here, is that right?" "Exactly. We just chop off their heads and they are goners. Sometimes we throw the birds into the yard and watch them run around with their heads chopped off. Sometimes we put 4 or 5 out there and watch them run into each other. Great fun, you know."

As I have read this press release I find that it is asinine, and I wonder what they are trying to accomplish. If it is to get people to buy more down filled products, I doubt it will work. As for sleeping bags, Lamilite makes all down bags obsolete and as far as I can tell down jacket sales are also in decline. So TNF and Patagonia will not accomplish anything with their investment in time and money auditing and certifying all aspects of down they want, it will not make it work any better.

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