Each year, the down, silk, and honey industries kill
thousands of geese,
silkworms, and bees. Silk and honey producers excuse their actions with
that worms and bees are "simple" forms of life, but consumers are
question the unnecessary killing of even tiny, sometimes complex, and
feeling, creatures like these.
Down on Down
"Down" is the soft under-feathering often plucked out of
live geese who are raised
for food. In many European countries, geese are allowed to mature during
eight or nine weeks of life. Reaching adulthood, they are divided by
geese are caged and force-fed -- a funnel is inserted into their throats
and a salty,
fatty corn mash is forced down it, up to six pounds a day--until they
and their livers have ballooned to four or more times the normal size.
are killed for pâté de foie gras.(1) White geese are plucked repeatedly
filling for products such as comforters, pillows, and ski parkas.(2)
Plucking the geese causes them considerable pain and
distress. Four or five
times in their lives, they will squirm as a plucker tears out five
ounces of their
feathers. A skilled plucker can handle 100 birds a day. After the last
geese have five weeks to grow more feathers before they are sent through
machine that plucks their longest feathers. From there they go to the
slaughterhouse.(3) At least one major U.S. down seller, the Company
Company Store Rd., La Crosse, WI 54601-4477), buys down from Hungary and
other European countries.
In North America, ducks and geese are hunted and raised
for their feathers (and
for food). People also gather eider down from the nests of female eider
who pluck the down from their breasts to line their nests and cover
Gathering the soft feathers can kill unhatched ducklings.(4)
Apart from the cruelty involved in its production, down
has drawbacks as a cold-
weather insulator that synthetic insulators do not have. Not only is
expensive, it also loses its insulating ability when wet, whereas the
capabilities of cruelty-free synthetic fillers are retained in all
Silk is the fiber silkworms weave to make cocoons. To
obtain the silk, silk
distributors boil the worms alive in their cocoons. Worms are sensate --
produce endorphins, a physical response to pain -- and anyone who has
worms scramble when their dark homes are uncovered recognizes this.
Humane alternatives to silk include nylon, milkweed seed
pod fibers, silk-cotton
tree and ceiba tree filaments, and rayon.
How About Honey?
In the honey industry, the buzz word is profit. Like
factory farmers, many
beekeepers take inhumane steps to ensure personal safety and reach
quotas. It is not unusual for larger honey producers to cut off the
wings of the
queen bee so that she cannot leave the colony, or to have her
inseminated on a bee-sized version of the factory farm "rape rack."(6)
keeper wants to move a queen to a new colony, she is carried with
bees, all of whom -- if they survive transport -- will be killed by bees
in the new
Large commercial operations also may take all the honey
instead of leaving the 60
pounds or so that bees need to get through the winter. They replace the
with a cheap sugar substitute that is not as fortifying or tasty. In
colder areas, if
the keepers consider it too costly to keep the bees alive through the
will destroy the hives by pouring gasoline on them, killing most of the
the fumes, and setting them on fire. Other times, keepers, who feel that
are easily replaced, allow them to die when trees are sprayed with
Bees are often killed, or their wings and legs torn off, by haphazard
To produce a pound of honey, bees must get pollen from 2
million flowers and
must fly more than 55,000 miles.(7) Honeybees returning to the hive from
seeking expedition "dance" in figure eights to "map out" a route for
other bees to
follow. These dances "encode information about the distance and
direction of a
target that can be miles away from the nest," said Thomas D. Seeley of
According to the Cook-DuPage Beekeepers' Association,
humans have been
using honey since about 15,000 B.C., but it wasn't until the 20th
people turned bees into factory-farmed animals. In 1987, the honey
$115.4 million.(9) Luckily, many sweeteners are made without killing
syrup, molasses, sorghum, barley malt, maple syrup, and dried fruit or
concentrates can replace honey in recipes.(10) Use these substitutes to
your diet bee-free.
1."And a Cow Jumped Over the Moon," The Animals' Voice,
February 1989, p. 56.
2.Kamm, Henry, "No Bed of Feathers for a Goose in Hungary," The New York
Times, June 2, 1988. 3.Ibid. 4.Pearson, Marcia, "Down," The
Shopper, Winter 1987-88. 5.Schneider, Al, "Down-Filled Clothing vs.
Letters, The Washington Post Health Section, Jan. 16, 1990. 6.Ling,
So Sweet: The Other Side of Honey," The Vegan, Spring 1988, pp. 12-13.
Spiers, Wally, Belleville News-Democrat, Sept. 11, 1988. 8.Weiss, Rick,
Dancer in the Hive," Science News, Oct. 28, 1989, p. 282. 9.Spiers, op.
10.Moran, Victoria, "Leaving the Land of Milk and Honey," The Animals'
March 1988, p. 48.
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