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The Truth about Duck Farming

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Photo credit via We Animals Media.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “like a duck to water”. The saying exists for good reason! Both wild and domestic ducks can spend countless hours in the water. Submerging their heads under water keeps their nostrils and eyes clear and healthy. Preening themselves in water keeps their feathers in top condition.


It should go without saying that every part of a duck’s body is designed for the water. Their webbed feet propel them forward as they swim. Ducks without access to water can develop dry, cracked legs and feet. Their waterproof feathers allow water to glide right off their bodies without chilling them. “Like water off a duck’s back,” another saying goes.


Even domestic ducks have the natural gift of knowing how to hold their breath. This allows them to submerge their heads in water comfortably for up to a minute. When ducks enter the water, it can be hard to get them back out! Swimming is such a joyful experience for them that it can be heartwarming to simply watch them swim. There’s a reason ducks and geese are categorized as “waterfowl”!


Access to water is a basic necessity for a duck’s happiness and welfare. You might think this is a no-brainer. But the majority of ducks raised on commercial farms never swim a day in their lives. Their physical and emotional health suffers greatly as a result. To the industry, this just doesn’t matter. Take a moment to think about this: an animal being deprived of their most basic core instinct just for the sake of profit. 


Most ducks raised for their flesh live in large warehouse-like sheds. These barren, crowded facilities look very similar to the conditions that chickens and turkeys are raised in. A typical duck farm in the United States allows little to no access to the outdoors and keeps animals under artificial light. Not only will most domestic ducks never swim, but many will never see or feel the sun. 


Duck feces produce around four times the ammonia as chicken feces. This means that ammonia builds fast in unsanitary and crowded conditions. Pair this with the fact that most ducks do not have access to water, and you have a recipe for disaster. Foot infections are common in ducks standing in their own waste. Respiratory problems can occur in ducks breathing in excessive ammonia levels. Because ducks do not have the ability to dip their heads in water to keep their orifices clean, crust can build up in their eyes and cause infections. 


Most ducks raised for their flesh are killed at 7 weeks of age. When cared for properly, domestic ducks can easily live for over ten years.


The life of an average farmed duck is a miserable one. But the lives of those used for foie gras are even worse. “Foie gras” is French for “fatty liver”. It’s not just ducks who suffer for this “luxury” food. Geese are exploited for their liver as well. The existence of a bird raised for foie gras is painful and frightening. 


The extreme fattening of a goose or duck’s liver is done through forced feeding. Forced feeding occurs during the final “phase” of the birds’ life, just before slaughter. It lasts around two weeks. During this time, birds are kept in small pens or cages to allow for close monitoring.


Birds have a pipe or a tube inserted down their throats and into their stomach. During periods of forced feeding, bird mortality rates jump to 2% to 4%. Accidental death can occur by injury to the esophagus. The goal of forced feeding is for the liver to swell  7 to 10x its healthy size. 


Over 75% of the world’s foie gras is produced in France. France is ranked with a lowly “D” in the Animal Protection Index, with minimal laws to protect farmed animals from suffering. Foie gras is also produced here in the United States. In fact, the U.S. humane slaughter act does not even cover birds. This means that chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese are fully conscious when their throats are slit in slaughterhouses.


Whether ducks are raised for their flesh or their fattened liver, they all end up on the same crowded and frightening trucks to slaughter.


Ducks are far more intelligent than most might think. These clever beings are capable of abstract thought typically associated with primates and highly intelligent birds such as parrots and corvids. They are highly social birds who develop life-long bonds with their companions. 


Most of all, ducks deserve better. We ask that you keep the suffering of farmed ducks in mind when making food choices. A plant-based diet is easier and more convenient than ever. The easiest way to help animals is to stop eating them.