This winter, they’re the only thing to be seen in. Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren are selling designer versions, they’ve featured in glossy fashion magazines and they’re flying off the shelves in stores like Benetton, Marks & Spencer and Gap.
The down jacket is currently experiencing astonishing popularity — but before you rush out and buy one, ask yourself this: how cruel is the coat?
For the Mail can reveal the dark side of the down industry, where hordes of birds — particularly geese — suffer horrifically to provide the filling for the latest fashion statement.
Feathers are ripped from the bodies of live creatures, leaving them bleeding and in pain. Others are a by-product of the foie gras industry — so cruel it’s been banned in Britain.
The most prized down, and therefore the one that pays the pluckers the most, is hand-stripped from live birds.
That’s because the process of mechanically taking it from carcasses before washing and drying it can affect the quality.
High-grade down from live geese — using the softest feathers from the breast region, as opposed to the longer ones from the back, under the wings and the neck — can fetch as much as £22 per kilo.
The going rate for those from slaughtered creatures is just £1.60. But the price paid by the bird is far greater.
The living hell of their short lives has been repeatedly witnessed by Marcus Mueller, 34 — an investigator for the animal charity Four Paws — who has been working for many years to expose the industry’s cruelty.
He has seen first-hand the brutality of the Hungarian plucking brigades — men and women who go from farm to farm stripping live birds of their plumage.