August 9th, 1912


FROM THE ARCHIVES:Plucking feathers for sale from live geese was a common practice a century ago but one that anti-animal cruelty campaigners were stamping out. – JOE JOYCE

MICHAEL FORD, a professional live goose plucker, was prosecuted by the Limerick branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for having, in contravention of Section 1, Protection of Animals Act, 1911, on the 2nd July last, cruelly ill-treated and tortured twenty-four live geese. [...]

Maurice Linnane, Inspector to the Limerick branch, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, deposed that he visited the holding of Mary Casey at Derrygalvin, Ballysimon, on the 3rd of July last, and found three old geese and twenty-one young geese with breasts and backs plucked of feathers.

Next day he saw Michael Ford, the defendant, in the city, and the man admitted that he had plucked the geese. Ford said he got twopence for the “pluck” of the back and breast of a goose. Subsequently the witness, with Dr. Winter, saw the geese, and they were somewhat improved, but still in a frightened condition. The practice of geese-plucking was diminishing.

Mr. E. C. Winter, V[eterinary].S[urgeon]., deposed to having made a study of this goose-plucking question. The plucking was on the decrease. A goose hatched in March would have its feathers about this time, and would not moult until autumn. It would not lose feathers in the first moult, more than 10 per cent., whereas 99 per cent of the feathers were plucked.

The operation was a painful one for the birds. The plucked geese were crippled and frightened, and it was done for gain. The witness never heard of murrain [serious disease] in cattle from eating loose feathers off the grass. The operation was not for the benefit of the goose, but the reverse. The value of the pluck of a goose would be something over a shilling [12 pence].

[Questioned] By Mr. Counihan [defence solicitor] – The practice of goose-plucking has existed for a very long time, and it is gross cruelty to pluck live geese, as these geese were plucked.

By Mr. Kelly [magistrate] – The birds bleed from the sockets of the feathers after the quills are pulled out.

This concluded the case against Ford. [...] Patrick Sheahan was next examined [by the defence], and said he dealt in the sale of feathers. The feather trade was one of the great industries of the country, and he had dealings to the extent of £10,000 the year before last. There was not a goose in the South of Ireland that was not plucked. [...]

The Witness – There is no truth in the statement that the practice is decreasing. The practice was in existence for 800 years, and it was the same now as always. In three days he could get up a “testimonial,” signed by 50,000 people, against the discontinuance of the practice.

Mr. Kelly said the magistrates were agreed that the case was one of cruelty, and they would impose a fine of 20s. [shillings], and 21s. costs.