I don’t usually mind fads. In fact, I often enjoy them. Huge earrings, bright ethnic prints, flats, heels, pearls, wooden bangles- I am generally ready to jump on the bandwagon and take a ride. However, the recent feather hair extension trend has me a bit, um, fluttered.
Suddenly, they are everywhere. After seeing several people sporting tufts I realized that seeing people with tufts of feathers in their hair left me feeling a sense of deep unease. Why was that? I wondered. I like feather earrings. I love feather pillows and down comforters. No, there was something specific bothering me. And then, gazing at a beautiful girl with a white tuft in her hair, it hit me.
I don’t like feather hair extensions because they vividly remind me of chicken butchering. Between the hot water and steam and heat and blood and downy tufts of feathers everywhere, getting feathers in your hair is pretty much inevitable. Now, the free range chickens on Sweet Ridge Farm have a good life.
Even as a teenaged vegetarian, I helped my parents butcher chickens. They are healthy birds fed lots of greens and good food, cared for well and killed quickly and without cruelty. Even so, it is not a process for the faint of heart, as my amazing friends discovered when they helped butcher 100 chickens to prepare for my wedding two years ago.
Downy feathers! Just like the hair extensions! That is, they are downy until the are soaked and tossed in the plucker…
And even then, tufts of feathers remain. I have to say, it was the most beautiful butchering crew I have ever seen, though it was not our most stylish moment.
I am fairly certain that by the end of the day, we all had feathers in our hair.
What really bothers me about feather hair extensions, though, is the factory farming of exotic feathered birds. After doing some research on the issue, I discovered that the feathers popularly used for extensions were originally marketed to fly fisherman. The roosters raised for their tailfeather plumage live about a year before the feathers are harvested- a process that the bird does not survive. In many cases the rest of the bird is simply tossed out, which seems grossly wasteful to me. With the explosion of demand for feather extensions, it disturbs me to think of the possible farming practices used for production of cosmetic feathers. It reminds me again of the importance of understanding the path a product takes before it ends up in your mouth or on your body. It is important to understand where our food and our clothing and our household goods come from, so that we can make conscious decisions to support ethical farming, marketing, and labor practices.
And that is why you will never catch me with a feather in my hair- unless you happen to be around before the next wedding, on butchering day.