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LONDON – Animal rights group PETA has released footage of fully conscious geese being beheaded in Russia for down which was subsequently certified by the Responsible Down Standard (RDS). PETA claims a representative with a Russian RDS-certified down broker took PETA investigators to the site where the footage is sourced, explaining auditors “don’t ask … how the birds are raised.”

The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) – a certification programme for down suppliers – attempts to assure consumers that geese bred for down are treated in a “responsible” way. PETA claims its video footage shows the RDS and other similar standards are failing to protect birds.

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The RDS requires that, “waterfowl shall be stunned then killed before they can regain consciousness.” However, veterinarian Dr Heather Rally observed in an expert statement that geese were, “suspended and restrained by the wings and [had] their necks mutilated with several blows from an apparently dull axe in a crude attempt to decapitate them all while fully conscious.”

The distressing footage reveals birds continuing to move their legs and wings over five minutes after being beheaded. PETA has now set a letter to UK Minister of State for Trade Policy Penny Mordaunt urging her to ban imports of Russian down.

“There is no way to be sure that jackets sold in the UK don’t contain feathers from birds tortured on Russian farms,” said PETA vice president Mimi Bekhechi. “PETA is calling on Minister Mordaunt to protect both consumers and animals by banning these cruel and misleading imports.”

Two Russian down suppliers confirmed to PETA that all down bought from the region of Novosibirsk is RDS-certified. This is because entire geographic regions, called “farm areas” by the RDS Certification Procedures can be certified by auditing just a sample of farms and slaughter sites. This, claims PETA, means the certification body may not know what is happening on most of the farms in a region.

The news raises serious questions for the RDS and begs the question of how thoroughly this – and Textile Exchange’s other standards – are being enforced and audited in other parts of the world.

Several natural animal fibres sectors have come under huge pressure to introduce standards in recent years, all of them developed by Textile Exchange. These include alpaca, wool, and mohair.

Such standards were supposed to provide protection from such expose’s against (as well, of course, as improving the lives of animals) and suppliers have had little choice but to stump up the hefty fees associated with them.

Asked whether it has approached Textile Exchange, PETA told Apparel Insider the US consultants have shown little interest in engaging in the past so it would therefore approach fashion retailers directly.

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