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China down industry disputes Swedish reports
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The China Feather and Down Industrial Association (CFDIA) said on February 9 that only a very small number of ducks were plucked alive for specific demand in Japan.

The association made the comment in response to Swedish reports about what was described as wide use of a cruel practice as suppliers sought profits amid poultry shortages. Actually, according to the CFDIA, there are no shortages of ducks or geese in China.

"CFDIA has condemned animal rights abuse. Only 0.1 to 0.3 percent of China's feather and down products were from 'harvested' material, which Japanese importers specifically demanded," Yao Xiaoman, vice chairman of the association, said on February 9.

Wilford Lieber, president of the International Down and Feather Laboratory, noted that "harvesting" in China is 1.5 times more expensive than the normal process in which feathers are produced as a by-product of the food industry.

"Live-plucking is so costly that it is not economic to sell [such products] to markets that do not explicitly demand them," Yao said.

TV4, the largest commercial television channel in Sweden, has aired allegations that 50 percent to 80 percent of China's 16 major suppliers plucked feathers and down from live birds.

The program, "Cold Facts", called on European animal-rights supporters to shun made-in-China feather products.

"Live-plucking is only feasible in one to three percent of the goose down products for expensive Japanese bedding and outwear products. That means a maximum of 0.3 percent of the total supply," Yao said.

China produces 80 percent of the world's supply of down and feathers, of which 90 percent are from ducks and 10 percent from geese. Industry sales hit 1.92 billion yuan (US$274 million) last year, according to the CFDIA data.

"We investigated the 13 enterprises listed by the program, and found none sell live-plucked down products to Sweden," said Yao.

Lieber said there was no shortage of duck down. "There is an oversupply of duck feathers and down. In both France and China, feathers are thrown away after processing the meat, because the price is so low and the supply is so high," he told Xinhua.

European importers have slashed orders in reaction to the TV4 coverage, Yao said. These actions dealt a heavy blow to the industry, which has been badly hit by the global downturn, he added. "We expect a joint working group of the Swedish media, animal protection societies and the IDFL to conduct a more detailed investigation."

The CFDIA supported animal protection and opposed cruelty to animals, the association said.

"In the future, we may ask manufacturers to put pledges that they do not use harvested material on labels to ease consumer concerns," said Yao.

Lieber said China had the latest technology for the down and feather industries, with the newest plants and washing facilities to produce clean material that met strict standards.

He said IDFL was working with other laboratories on ways to determine if material had been live-plucked.

(Xinhua News Agency February 10, 2009)

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