A white duck sitting on green grass.

Who’s really paying the price for puffer jackets?

Get the low-down on 'down' and discover kinder alternatives to keep you warm this winter.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated April 13, 2023

The weather is cooling down quickly, which means it’s time to break out the unofficial uniform of Aussies in the country’s colder regions – the puffer jacket. But what – or more accurately who – are these jackets made from?

Puffers have been a winter staple for quite a few years now and there’s been an explosion of choice in what’s available – especially with online shopping increasing competition, there’s now a cosy puffer jacket available at every price point. ‘Down’ – or feather – filled jackets are often positioned as a superior choice for consumers, but animals are paying the ultimate price.

Thankfully, there is a mammoth shift underway to a more ethical and sustainable filling, with more and more Aussies looking for a cruelty-free, eco-friendly filling, made from recycled materials. This is an obvious choice when we take a closer look at ‘down production’ for jackets and other winter items like doonas…

What is down, anyway? 

Down is the layer of soft and tiny feathers closest to a bird’s body. It keeps ducks, geese and other birds warm through cold nights and winter seasons. 

Many people are completely unaware of the cruelty behind down and are surprised to learn that most down used in products sold in Australia comes from China – a country with few animal protection laws.

Disturbingly, down is often ‘harvested’ through a process called ‘live-plucking where geese and ducks as young as 10 weeks old are restrained and have their feathers ripped out by the roots.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A goose is being held down and having their feathers torn from their body during 'live plucking' for down production.
Birds less than a few months old can have their feathers ripped from their bodies several times a year, until they are sent to slaughter.
Image credit: PETA & PETA Asia

During this violent process, their wings or legs can break from being held down. Their delicate skin is often torn and the wounds may be stitched up with long needles – without anaesthetic. Birds can be forced to endure this up to six times a year, until they are eventually sent for slaughter. 

It is important to note that while some companies claim to source their down through ‘ethical harvesting’ (where down is collected after the birds naturally moult), this ‘production’ method makes up only a very small fraction of the market.

Every dollar you spend can be a vote for kindness

Despite this incredible cruelty, many puffer jackets are still made from duck and goose down and feathers – even chains like Aldi stock down jackets – so it pays each and every winter to read clothing labels to make sure your new favourite puffer is cruelty-free. 

The best way to be sure you’re sparing a duck or goose from having their feathers ripped from their body is to not buy down at all – and, thankfully, that’s very easy to do with synthetic alternatives readily available in most department stores. 

The good news – a warm jacket doesn’t have to cost someone their feathers!

There are now many animal-friendly synthetic alternatives that manufacturers are using to make puffer jackets and other down-filled products (like doonas or cushions). These synthetic fibres are just as lightweight and warm (actually, some are warmer!) than the traditional puffer jackets that use birds’ feathers. Some synthetic alternatives are even made from recycled plastic bottles or recycled polyester, making them eco-friendly as well as animal-friendly.

Animal-friendly puffer jackets are everywhere these days – from Kathmandu’s Heli Thermore jacket and Macpac’s Puslar jacket at the top of the range, to more wallet-friendly options at Glassons, Cotton On, and Hallenstein Brothers.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Thank you for shopping kindly for our feathered friends!

If you’re in the market for a new puffer to keep you warm on a night out, while travelling to the office, or one that’s more hard-wearing for hiking and camping, there is a kinder down-alternative out there for you!

Keen to keep learning? Find out more about other animal products like angora and wool here.