Pillow Talk: Is Your Hotel Pillow Cruelty-Free?

Photo by Nik Lanús.

More hotel guests are requesting pillows made without down, the soft under-feathers of geese and other birds.

Who says your pillow can’t be cruelty-free? More and more, eco-conscious travelers are waking up to the grim reality of down-filled pillows and the distress they cause in the animal world.

You’ve heard of cruelty-free bath and body products, which aren’t tested on animals. Thanks to travelers who request such products in the hotels where they stay, hotel managers have heard the message loud and clear: nobody wants shampoo that caused animals to suffer in the labs!

Now movement is spreading to pillows- yes, your pillow can be cruelty-free too. But pillows aren’t tested on animals, so what’s the rub? It’s what’s inside that matters: down.

Birds aren’t down with down pillows.

According to PeTA*, birds suffer when the cruel-hearted down industry plucks their feathers to get at their down. PeTA has procured underground footage showing employees roughly plucking feathers from live geese. It’s frightening and uncomfortable for the birds, not to mention harmful when they’re left with open wounds from rough plucking. It’s called “live plucking” and it hurts!

Not only that, but hotels that use down pillows are indirectly supporting another industry that’s bad for animals. Very often the very same goose farmers who pluck their birds for the down are also raising those geese for the production of foie gras (not to mention the goose meat). As you probably know, foie gras is produced using especially cruel methods by farmers showing little concern for animal welfare.

What’s all the fuss about down pillows anyway?

Down, in case you didn’t know, refers to the ultra-soft layer of feathers that grows under a bird’s regular feathers. It’s known for its superior insulating properties (keeps you warm) plus its light weight. Fluffing a down pillow brings it back to life so it doesn’t remain matted after use.

Down is also used in comforters, where a warm yet light construction is crucial to comfort. Many of the nicer large hotel chains proudly advertise their down comforters. Down bedding is a symbol of luxury, which is why so many upscale hotel chains use it. As you might guess, products made with down in them are expensive. Ironically, you sometimes even find down bedding in areas where the temperature never gets below 60° F (16° C)!

Cruelty-free down alternatives for pillows and other bedding products.

Of course there’s a reason people love down. It’s long been unbeatable in terms of warmth and comfort. Its ability to insulate the body without adding too much bulk is unmatched…until recently. Now that’s all changing, thank goodness.

It turns out that down isn’t the only way to get a soft, comfortable pillow that ensures a good night’s sleep. Travelers looking to extend their cruelty-free lifestyle into vacation time might want to know they can do more than just complain. They can suggest alternatives (think positive!). Companies are pouring money into the matter, and research labs have produced some pretty impressive results.

We now have several down alternatives for winter clothing as well as bedding, including:




·TCS® Down Free

Each is soft, washable, and wonderfully down-free. Plus, thanks to the ultra sensitive among us, down-free pillows are available for retail purchase. Just look for “hypoallergenic pillows” and chances are you’ll find pillows made with TCS® or Primaloft, the two most commonly used products in down-free pillows.

Marriott Hotels have reduced their down use from 100% to 50%, according to PeTA.** They now offer their guests synthetic pillows, the same ones they’ve been offering their allergy-prone guests for years.

In a similar vein, Moxy and AC hotels are now 100% down-free. They use corn-based materials in their pillows and guests are not complaining!

You can ask for allergen-free pillows when you travel, in order to avoid down. Better yet, suggest synthetics to your hotel manager as well. Chances are, you may find yourself staying at a hotel where the cruelty-free pillow concept hasn’t yet taken hold. That way, you’re part of a solution towards a world that’s cruelty-free…even while on vacation!

*Source: PeTA “Down Production: Birds Abused for Their Feathers”.

**Source: PeTA “Leading Retailers Are Ditching Down, Thanks to PeTA”.

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