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What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Human

Doing the right thing for animals helps mind and body.

A gaggle of geese.

Distance from execution helps render responsibility hazy.

—Edward Herman [1]

A gaggle of geese.

Distance from execution helps render responsibility hazy.

And so it is, putting on a down jacket on way to ski, hike, or do outdoor chores, without a thought of where, how, and who the insulation comes from. The stuff in our pillows and jackets comes from stripping live birds of their feathers, a procedure that rips opens skin leaving the victim torn in body and mind. [2] A mind, when its companion body is held by the neck, restrained and has his/her skin pulled off, begins to tear. This is called psychological trauma. A recent video reveals that this experience is common to millions of geese and ducks. [3]

But the luxury of distance is no longer possible, nor is responsibility hazy. Science openly and publically admits that birds are just as smart, feeling, spiritual – conscious – as we are (or would like to suppose we are). Escape from responsibility is impossible. [4][5] “The bird brain is a reptile brain or the reptile is a bird brain and they are both analogous to the mammalian brain having comparable capacities and functions,” states Dr. Erich Jarvis, one of the world’s leading neuroscientists. “Unequivocally”, echo other neuroscientists at Cambridge University: “humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness.”[6] Other animals possess what prevents us, at least in the eyes of the law, from having our skin stripped and made into products.

The negative consequences of purposeful ignorance extend beyond its victims. Robert Jay Lifton wrote a treatise on the subject in his book, The Nazi Doctors. [7] Dissociation, cognitive dissonance, and other methods of denial are unhealthy for both the self and society. Indeed, an entire psychological movement and theory, pioneered by Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura, speaks to the importance of being able and willing to put one’s beliefs and knowledge into action.[8]

Geese with injuries from plucking.

Photo credit: Four Paws/Farmwatch

There is no distance from the execution of geese. Their bodies and suffering are right here, next to our bodies and beds. Doing what we know in our hearts and what science affirms is a step to mental and social health – for us and for the geese who long to live their lives in dignity and freedom.

Gay Bradshaw, PhD, PhD is Executive Director of The Kerulos Center ( She is the author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us about Humanity, an in-depth psychological portrait of elephants in captivity and in the wild. Her work focuses on human-animal relationships and trauma recovery of species that include elephants, grizzly bears, tortoises, chimpanzees, and parrots.

Literature Cited

[1] Herman, E. S. 1997, Triumph of the Market: Essays on Economics, Politics and the Media, p.98 quoted in Bradshaw, G.A 2009. Elephants on the Edge: What animals can teach us about humanity. Yale p. 203.

[2] Feathers ripped from birds' backs and gaping wounds sewn up with no pain relief: The barbaric cost of your winter coat. Retrieved November 30, 2012 from…

[3] PeTA. 2012. Chilling cruelty in the down industry. Retrieved November 30, 2012 from

[4] Bradshaw, G.A. & M Engebretson. In press. Parrot Breeding and Keeping: Impacts of Capture and Captivity on Bird Wellbeing. Animals & Society Institute Policy Series.

[5] Bradshaw GA, Yenkosky J, McCarthy E 2009 Avian affective dysregulation: Psychiatric models and treatment for parrots in captivity. Proceedings of the Association of Avian Veterinarians. 28th Annual Conference, Minnesota

[6] Cambridge Declaration. 2012. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. Retrieved November 23, 2012 from; and (3) the psychological and social sensitivity of their subjects is admitted, the research profoundly violates ethical standards.

[7] Lifton,R.J. 1986. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (New York: Basic, 1986).

[8] Bandura, A. (1995). Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies. Cambridge University Press.