H&M is under pressure by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to come clean about how it sources down feathers.
After a recent PETA Asia investigation into Vina Prauden—a Vietnamese company that previously supplied down to H&M—revealed that workers slit ducks’ throats while the birds were still conscious, the animal-rights group urged the H&M Group‘s board of directors to prepare a report on the slaughter methods used to procure down for the Swedish fast-fashion retailer.
PETA’s resolution points out that H&M depends on Textile Exchange’s “demonstrably ineffective” Responsible Down Standard (RDS) to make claims about animal welfare. But the company recently began removing the RDS label from its online offerings—something that suggests that H&M knows the RDS is “a sham,” PETA said. H&M provides no information about the farms and slaughterhouses that supply down for its products, “completely debunking its own misleading statements that it has prioritized both traceability and transparency across supply chains,” PETA said.
A search by Sourcing Journal could only surface “recycled down” references on the Swedish retailer’s product pages. However, the RDS is still mentioned in the “animal welfare” section of its website, as well as that H&M Group is the world’s biggest buyer of “preferred down.”
“H&M states that no animals should be harmed for its clothes, so it should jump at PETA’s request that it hold a microscope up to its supply chain to ensure just said,” Tracy Reiman, PETA executive vice president, said. “Every down item represents the pain and suffering of terrified birds, and deceptive labels and lip service only serve to absolve companies and dupe well-meaning consumers.”
At a slaughterhouse that provided down for Vina Prauden, PETA Asia investigators documented a worker forcing ducks into shackles before dragging them through an electrified water bath meant to paralyze them, even though the birds’ throats were slit while they were still conscious, the investigation alleged. The slaughterhouse owner told investigators that her employees “never check for signs of consciousness” before stabbing ducks in the neck and killing them.
Previous PETA exposés have repeatedly revealed workers live-plucking ducks and geese, leaving them with bloody wounds, even on farms connected to purportedly “responsible” companies. On an RDS-certified farm in Russia, PETA Asia documented that geese shrieked as workers repeatedly hacked them with an axe before decapitation was complete. In Poland, inadequate stunning caused prolonged suffering to ducks who were left hanging upside down from leg shackles, some flapping as they bled to death.
These actions apparently violate RDS requirements, the European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter, Vietnam’s Law on Animal Husbandry 2018 and Poland’s Animal Protection Act 1997.
“Animal welfare is important to us, and no animal should be harmed in the making of our products,” H&M Group’s animal welfare policy states. “We have a long-standing commitment to improving animal welfare across our global supply chains and we are working to source all animal-derived materials from farms with good animal husbandry.” The 2022 policy further states that H&M Group doesn’t accept down or feathers from exotic birds, including but not limited to ostrich, and that all virgin down and feathers used must come from farms certified to the RDS or a similar standard.
An H&M rep described the findings of PETA’s investigation as “unacceptable.”
“At H&M Group, animal welfare is very important to us. We welcome PETA’s commitment on this issue and their work to uncover unacceptable breaches in our industry, which ultimately helps to improve industry standards and practices on animal welfare,” the H&M representative told Sourcing Journal. “As with any system of industry standards, developments and implementations in different regions and contexts provide valuable insights on where to improve and evolve.”
H&M also told Sourcing Journal that it has no direct connection to Vina Prauden, however, it takes these allegations “extremely seriously.”
PETA has been fighting “responsible” down long before the investigation was released in 2022.
In 2016, the animal-rights group came after Textile Exchange when it released a video of live geese at factories in China having their feathers plucked, leaving them with open sores. PETA called out Eddie Bauer, Hollander Sleep Products and Land’s End for sourcing live-plucked down. Some companies have responded. In January, SMCP, the Paris-based company that owns Maje and Sandro, committed to removing duck and goose feathers across all four of its brands by the fall/winter 2023 season.
Textile Exchange did not immediately respond to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.