• Home
  • News
  • Fashion
  • Four Paws shopping guide for a kinder winter wardrobe

Four Paws shopping guide for a kinder winter wardrobe

By Simone Preuss


Scroll down to read more


Hey, those are my feathers! Brown and white goose. Credits: Pixabay / Pexels

Down feathers that ducks or geese lose on their own and that are then collected for puffer jackets or blankets, sheep that are shorn slowly and are happy to get rid of their “burden” - unfortunately, these are all myths that consumers may have in mind when they buy products with materials of animal origin. However, the reality is vastly different and the fact is that animals are exposed to cruelty as soon as they are commercialised.

“When it gets colder outside again, many people stock up on new warming winter clothing. The main components of beanies, jumpers and jackets are often animal materials, such as wool, down or fur," says the animal rights organisation Four Paws in a press release and presents animal-friendly alternatives.


Sheep's wool is one of the most frequently used animal materials in the fashion industry. Due to its versatile properties, merino wool is not only used for winter clothing, but also for sports and outdoor clothing, suits and even cloth nappies.

The main problem, however, is mulesing, a procedure in which a piece of the tail and rump of lambs is cut off (often without anaesthetic). This is to prevent infestation by blowflies, but there are better and painless methods.

More than 400 international clothing brands are opposing Mulesing by now and Four Paws advises consumers, to research carefully before buying wool and to look for certifications such as the Responsible Wool Standard, Nativa or ZQ Merino. This also applies to mohair and cashmere, which have their own standards by now.


Goose or duck downs are used for puffer jackets, outdoor clothing, blankets and similar products. They usually come from animals from livestock farming and may be plucked alive. Even though the Responsible Down Standard exists, Four Paws is not convinced “that the current certifications can sufficiently mitigate this risk due to the complexity of the supply chains” and therefore recommends that consumers avoid down altogether and use alternatives.


Fur trimmings are in high demand for winter clothing - hats with fur pompoms, fur trimmings on hoods, collars, gloves or shoes are still frequently seen in stores. However, items labelled with fake fur often conceal real fur, which is cheaper. According to Four Paws, over 30 million minks, foxes and raccoons were bred in overcrowded cages and killed for their fur on fur farms in 2022 alone. “Many more species die every year for their fur in captivity or are killed with traps,” says the animal welfare organisation.

Many fashion brands and retailers have now joined the international “Fur Free Retailer Programme”. The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI), the most successful in the field of animal welfare and the third most successful overall according to Four Paws, calls for a ban on fur farms and fur sales. To date, 20 member states have imposed legal restrictions on fur farming.

Four Paws advises a hands off approach when it comes to fur, as it cannot be produced in an animal-friendly way. The argument that animal skins are a by-product of the food industry does not make things any better - the animals suffer in any case, regardless of which industry exploits them.


Four Paws advises consumers who do not want to do without the versatile properties of wool, down and fur to choose alternatives of plant origin that can compete with animal products, especially in the area of downs. Here in particular PrimaLoft, Tencel Lyocell, Flwerdown or Kapok - a hollow fibre obtained from the husks of the tropical kapok tree.

Wool lovers can try products made from organic cotton, which is produced without harmful synthetic chemicals or additives. Tencel Lyocell made from wood pulp is also recommended here, as are innovative next-generation materials, such as those made from a mixture of coconut and hemp waste (e.g. Spinnova) or from the Calotropis plant and regenerative cotton (e.g. Weganwool).

According to Four Paws, good alternatives to fur are hemp or BioFluff. In addition, the newest innovation from SpiberInc can produce fur and wool materials by producing brewed protein staple fibres created via a fermentation process.

“Remember that the best way to avoid cruelty to animals is to look for alternatives, because only plant-based alternatives can eliminate animal suffering 100 percent,” concludes the animal welfare organisation.

Consumers who may find such alternatives too expensive should consider giving fewer but more thoughtful gifts instead of several cheaper ones where animals pay the price and should explain their choice. After all, who does not want to be surprised with well thought-out gifts, even if they are perhaps fewer in quantity but last longer and have not been produced at the expense of others?

Animal Rights
Four Paws