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Activists decry ‘unethical’ crow down industry

By Ouri Yenez

Animal welfare advocates are speaking out against controversial practices that have reportedly been taking place for decades at down farms across the United States. 

Last month, a former employee at one of these farms, under the alias Julian A. Caw, sent a letter to eight national news publications and five county sheriff’s offices located in areas with down farms notifying them of the “unethical” practice of plucking down feathers from live crows and some ravens.

The allegations came as many consumers were reporting an increase in black feathers poking out of their U.S.-made down products. Earlier this month, a federal investigation was launched, with reports of at least nine down farms raided by authorities in a single day. 

“I heard the squawking and knew those black SUVs were the feds,” said Martha Childress, who lives near a down farm, Fluffy Acres, in Dayton, North Carolina. “I never knew what they was plucking over there were crows, but I guess it’s all birds to me.”

Authorities have been tight-lipped about whether charges will be filed against any of the farms where crow down is harvested but have confirmed that the practice is happening. 

“We have an unusual case here where the birds are not of a feather,” Derek Chase, lead agent for the FBI’s down division, said at a Monday press conference. “China unfortunately remains the largest producer of down, but live-plucking is illegal in the United States. These cases will be examined and processed accordingly. However, it’s unclear whether the use of crows in this way is a criminal offense. We are evaluating that now, but it just seems wrong, doesn’t it?”

Activists have taken a stronger stance against the crow down industry, with PETA issuing a statement on Tuesday: “We condemn all practices of imprisoning, live-plucking and murdering birds, but we especially condemn doing it to crows.”

Whistleblower Caw has also remained vocal about the situation despite his maintained anonymity.

“I was coerced by a farmer to lure innocent comrades into captivity in exchange for a sizable cache of nuts,” Caw wrote on X, formerly called Twitter. “I myself participated, and this is my shame. But I will not be quiet now. We will see justice for these atrocities, whether it’s in a judicial or civil courtroom, or with retribution borne from the skies. We are your neighbors, no matter where you reside. We are always watching, we are always ready, and we never forget.”

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