The Co-op continues to duck the issue
Viva!’s response to the Co-op’s
Many of you will, by now, have received a standard letter from the Co-op
with regards to our investigations into the duck farms owned by their
suppliers. Their response is entirely unsatisfactory. Despite seeing
our evidence of the inherent cruelty associated with duck farming, they
still dismiss our concerns with corporate spin.
The Co-op continues to claim that their suppliers have developed a code
of practice “aimed at maintaining the highest standards of welfare
and husbandry”. Yet, when we filmed at their supplier’s sites
we revealed filthy, dejected, fearful, ill and injured ducks living in
squalor and neglect – anything but good animal welfare.
It would be laughable, if it weren’t so tragic, that the Co-op tries
to justify its factory-farming techniques by stating that, as ducks can
be “extremely gregarious” and “flock together in large
numbers” it is okay to cram them in to a windowless shed to spend
their pathetically short seven week life with several thousand other birds.
This is the sad reality for all of the Co-op’s ducks, and it is disingenuous
to claim high standards of animal welfare when wild-natured, aquatic birds
are condemned to overcrowded sheds with no access to water.
The standard Co-op letter states that Viva! acknowledges the disease implications
of allowing ducks access to water for swimming – suggesting we somehow
support not offering ducks water! This is not the case. In view of the
aquatic nature of all ducks and their need for water to remain healthy,
water deprivation represents a serious welfare insult to them. Obviously,
if a company took the cynical action of allowing 10,000 ducks access to
water there would be problems! But Viva! does not view this as a genuine
effort to improve duck’s welfare – providing too little water
to too many ducks is no way forward. Ducks are water animals and they must
be allowed access to fresh, clean water – no compromise. The heart
of the problem, of course, lies in the intensiveness of the farming – but
it is always the ducks that pay the price. There are practical solutions
to this – but they cost money. What does the Co-op consider more
important: animal welfare or their profit margin?
So far, the Co-op has told us it does not intend to introduce free-range ducks in the near future
but is currently using the newly-drawn up RSPCA Freedom Food standards for ducks. This is less than impressive and, on the basis of our past experiences, almost meaningless. The Freedom Food scheme claims to set the highest animal welfare standards when in fact they fall well short the Soil Association's standards and are usually little better than the legal minimum requirements. Despite the word 'Freedom', the scheme approves intensive, factory farming and does not in any way guarantee that the birds will be free-range. BBC Watchdog and other programme producers have filmed inside Freedom Food farms and exposed appalling conditions.
We really appreciate you writing to the Co-op – they really do take
note of every correspondence – if you have time it would be great
if you could write back and tell them you are not satisfied with their
statement. If you do, please ask them to provide the details of their supposedly
The following are questions you may find useful to ask the Co-op:
- The Co-op have proved themselves market leaders when it comes
to Fair Trade coffee, and products such as toiletries not tested
on animals. They made these ethical trade policies work, so why
can’t they end factory-farming practices that result in the
abject misery of hundreds of thousands of birds every year?
- Why do the Co-op believe indoor sheds are an appropriate environment
for an essentially wild bird?
- Ask the Co-op why they are insulting your intelligence by trying
to justify cramming thousands of ducks into a windowless shed under
the pretence that they are “extremely gregarious”.
- Exactly how many ducks do the Co-op guidelines allow to be kept
in one shed, and what outside access is provided?
- Ask the Co-op what the mortality rate for ducks is at their suppliers.
The industry norm is around 5%, which means that on average around
a million ducks die on factory farms in the UK before they reach
even 7 weeks old. Does this reflect high animal welfare standards?
- How much attention can one stockman give thousands of ducks per
- The fulfilment of maternal instincts is denied to today's commercial
breeding ducks. Observation of mother ducks with their young suggests
a strong bond. In the wild, the female Mallard usually looks after
her ducklings for about two months. How does the Co-op justify
the fact that no duck bred for meat ever sees its mother?
- The Council of Europe (European Convention for the Protection
of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes) states that ducks are largely
aquatic and that all breeds retain many biological characteristics
of their wild ancestors. Most importantly it adds that farmed
ducks should be allowed ‘the fulfilment of essential biological
requirements, in particular in respect of water’. They
are clear that ducks should have the ability to swim, feed and
preen in water. How does the Co-op excuse its complete lack of
water in light of this?
- The Council of Europe has stated that heavier domestic birds,
in particular those selected for meat production, may be unable
to fly, have difficulty in walking and be subject to leg disorders.
How can the Co-op suggest that lameness is a rare event (our footage
shows that this is not the case). Also, ask them what “treatment” is
given to ducks removed because of lameness – the greatest
probability is that when/if they are found they will be slaughtered
immediately on site.
- Ask the Co-op why they insist that the slaughter of ducks is
carefully monitored when Official veterinary surgeons are only
obliged to observe slaughter once a day. Ducks are meant to be
pre-stunned by being shackled upside down and immersed into an
electrified waterbath. However, the Scientific Veterinary Committee
of the EU state that they are concerned about the effectiveness
of this method because ducks, in particular, may not be immersed
in the waterbath as they are liable to ‘swan neck’ and
many have their throats slit whilst still fully conscious. How
does this square with the Co-op’s claims of humane slaughter?
- The European Convention acknowledges that preening is an important
behaviour, and involves immersion in water, and birds need to spend
considerable time doing this to remain clean and healthy. How do
the Co-op tally ‘high welfare’ with ducks being denied
this most fundamental behaviour?
- Emphasise that high welfare standards and factory farming are
a contradiction in terms. Why, if the Co-op care about animal welfare,
do they source intensively reared duck meat?
Contact the Co-op!
Martin Beaumont, Chief Executive
PO Box 53
New Century House,
Freephone customer services on 0800
|Click above to watch Jake's story
Please contact the Co-op to
register your protest at their involvement in animal suffering,
and ask them to stop selling duck meat.
Do you bank with the Co-op? Find out what you can do to help the ducks here
response to the Co-op's standard reply.
or 'cop-out'? Prove your ethical mettle, Co-op, clear the shelves
of factory farmed ducks immediately!
fair trade for ducks in the Co-op - it's time to put the ethics
back into your retailing! Save these beautiful creatures from
a life of misery and early death. Say no to factory farmed