We were dismayed when the feather hair extension craze began. While we knew that the way that the feathers were harvested would likely fly under the radar for awhile, we also knew that it wouldn’t be long until the truth finally started to circulate. Many people mistakenly believe that the feathers fall naturally off of the bird, but sadly, this is just not true.
The truth is that feathers for hair extensions are quite ill-gotten. Roosters are raised for just the purpose of providing their tail feathers for extensions. They are kept in small battery cages, with no external stimuli. Because each rooster only has a small amount of tail feathers (up to 5 to 6 per rooster at most), many, many roosters are needed to keep up with the demand. While many feather producers claim to be “humane”, it is just not cost-effective to keep that many roosters and be “free range” and “humane.”
Whiting Farms is the largest supplier of feathers for extensions in the US. The roosters are only used for tail feathers, meaning once their feathers are ready for harvest, they are killed and then discarded after the feathers are obtained. Whiting Farms claims that the roosters are killed “humanely,” but their killing method involves asphyxiating the roosters with Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in order to keep the feathers clean of blood. Once the roosters breathing is impeded, they try harder to breathe, but each inhalation to get more oxygen only makes them breathe in more CO2, causing further strangulation. Thomas Whiting, the owner of Whiting Farms based in Delta, Colorado, is famously quoted as saying:
“[We’re] sentencing [each rooster] to a solitary cage for the last 6 months, with nothing to look at or listen to other than lots of other confined roosters … [y]our sentiments can quickly shift from wanting to evaluate their necks to wringing [t]hem. Some of my most sheepish moments in life have been after hurling an especially bad rooster across the barn in utter frustration ….”
United Poultry Concerns (UPC) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to make the public aware of how poultry is treated by society. They address this in all manners of situations, including food production, science, education, entertainment and as companion pets. They have heavy educational outreach programs, lecturing at conferences, offering film presentations, providing writings and mailings, and information displays.
UPC has recently posted an open letter to Aveda, the natural and organic beauty product company, who has started selling feather extensions in some of their salons. The letter was directed towards Aveda President & CEO Dominique Conseil. Aveda, owned by notorious animal testing company Estee Lauder, responded to initial correspondences by sending a note to salon owners, urging them to stop carrying the extensions. However, it was still optional for the salons. UPC in turn responded with the open letter below, asking Aveda to make it mandatory that the salons cease carrying the feather extensions. We have posted the letter below, as well as the contact information for Aveda. We urge you to also write to Aveda, urging them to ban the feathers from their salons.
An Open Letter to AVEDA President & CEO Dominique Conseil from United Poultry Concerns
Dear Mr. Conseil,
On behalf of United Poultry Concerns, I am writing to you regarding the display and sale of rooster feather hair extensions in your spas and salons. Popularized by American Idol host Steven Tyler, these hair feathers have attracted customers who are unaware of the cruelty they involve. The reality is this: A company called Whiting Farms in Colorado raises thousands of roosters in battery-cage warehouses in order to obtain 5 or 6 tail feathers from each rooster. To avoid bloody feathers, the company gasses the roosters to death with carbon dioxide (CO2). The roosters die slowly and painfully by asphyxiation. They suffocate to death. The dead roosters are then trashed. In 2011, we posted an alert on the Internet about rooster feather hair extensions.
Shocked, Aveda patrons informed us that Aveda salons were selling these feathers. We wrote a letter urging you to remove all feather products from your stores. We urged you to develop a policy banning feather products and all animal cruelty products from your retail network. Inspired by Aveda’s claim of being an “animal-friendly brand culture” whose mission “is to care for the world we live in,” we approached you hopefully. Aveda’s image is that of a cruelty-free, animal friendly company. This image has inspired the trust of compassionate beauty-care customers. Readers of VegNews magazine – the world’s largest surveyor of vegan people, places, and products – have awarded several Aveda products their “Favorite” in the past 8 years.
Your 11 VegNews Veggie Awards have helped your company to grow in reputation and sales.
Responding to our campaign, you acknowledged that you are now aware of the cruelty of feather hair extensions and of feather products generally, which can also involve plucking live birds for their feathers. You shared a letter that you said was being distributed to your salon network, in which you state: “We feel strongly that these products and services do not align with the Aveda Mission.”
We are very grateful for your letter to your retailers. However, we are concerned about the message that follows in which you assure them that “it is not our place to dictate what you should or should not do.” We believe it is Aveda’s place to dictate ethical policy to any retail outlet bearing or affiliated with your name and from which you profit. We believe it is particularly important where animal cruelty, consumer trust, and the integrity of Aveda’s Mission are at stake. In addition, we hope that by telling your retailers that Aveda can assist with “transitioning” the feather products from their businesses if they wish, that you do not mean diverting these inhumane products to other marketing channels.We hope that you realize the importance of our concerns to your business.
We hope you will respond in a way that supports Aveda’s reputation as a company that truly does “care for the world we live in.” Please develop and implement a policy banning rooster feather hair extensions and all animal cruelty products from Aveda’s retail network. We look forward to your response. Thank you for your attention.
Karen Davis, PhD
President, United Poultry Concerns
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