Following a request from the European Commission, the panel on animal health and welfare was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on the practice of collecting feathers from live geese for down production.
An ad hoc expert working group was established in response to the request. The Working Group made use of information provided by stakeholders during the Technical Meeting held on 28th May 2010, technical hearings with experts from an NGO and the feathers industry, in addition to information collected by EFSA through a Public Consultation. The scientific opinion on the practice of collecting feathers from live geese for down production was adopted by the AHAW Panel on 27 October 2010.
The main recommendation is that only ripe feathers should be removed from live geese. A control system should be in place to ensure this is carried out in practice or, alternatively, feathers should be removed by the person using a brushing or combing procedure so that only ripe feathers can be gathered. Grasping of feathers should be avoided.
Additionally, as welfare-outcome indicators, the presence of skin tears and blood or tissue on the feathers, and the presence of non-ripe feathers in the collected feather material should be used to distinguish between plucking and gathering.
Good handling methods
Suffering should be avoided or minimised when catching and handling the geese, and geese should never be carried by the neck, legs or by one wing, be thrown or dropped, or be restrained by sitting on the neck or body of the bird. Operators should be aware of good animal handling methods and the differentiation between ripe and unripe feathers.
Recommendations for future research are focused on the factors indicating the correct stage of moult and the hormonal processes underlying moulting in geese. Further studies should be encouraged to improve the validity, feasibility and reliability of welfare-outcome indicators. The method to evaluate the maturity of the feathers should be validated and further developed.
For the full details see the EFSA Website