Retailers are being urged to stop selling down-based products and instead sell only those made with high-tech down-free materials to ensure garments are 100% cruelty-free, after an investigation exposed violations at goose farms in China.

Video footage revealed by animal rights group PETA US shows workers in the Chinese farms pinning geese down and ripping their feathers out as they struggle and scream. Many of the birds endure this multiple times before they are killed.

PETA claims all of the farms in the footage have connections to retail suppliers that are certified by the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), which prohibits live plucking of geese yet allows suppliers to handle live-plucked down, raising concerns over the legitimacy of the RDS certification.

"There's simply no guarantee that the feathers inside any jacket or pillow weren't ripped out of a screaming goose's skin", says PETA managing director, Ingrid Newkirk. "PETA is calling on kind retailers and consumers to ditch down in favour of high-tech synthetics that are compassionate, warm and hypoallergenic – and even insulate when wet."

Responding to earlier PETA allegations against the Responsible Down Standard, Textile Exchange (TE) said: "The Responsible Down Standard expressly prohibits live plucking, and other violations of animal welfare," and added that "PETA has not established a link between live plucking and RDS certified products."

The  Responsible Down Standard is designed to evaluate and trace the original source of down used in products, creating a chain of custody from gosling or duckling to final product. Its ultimate goal is to increase transparency in the supply chain around all issues relating to animal welfare. 

In March the animal rights group also called on luxury retailers including Hermès and Prada to stop selling handbags, shoes and belts made from ostrich and other exotic skins after an investigation exposed violations at two farms and slaughterhouses in South Africa.

Probe exposes violations at ostrich leather farms