Britain’s favourite wild bird has joined the ranks of the factory farmed animal machines. They have been forced out of the ponds and riversides and crammed in their thousands into dirty, stinking sheds – their every natural instinct frustrated.

Animals that have evolved to eat, swim, dive, clean and play in water are denied it entirely except for drinking. Without water, ducks can’t preen, their feathers deteriorate and they can lose body heat. They may also develop eye problems and even blindness. Able to live for 10 years, they are killed after seven weeks.

Jake the Drake

Jake looks sad, doesn’t he? It’s no wonder.

Like most of the 19 million ducklings raised for meat each year in the UK, Jake has spent his short life imprisoned in a filthy, windowless shed with up to 10,000 others.

This is his story.

“I’m nearly seven weeks old, but don’t let me size fool you – I’m just a duckling. My home – the only place I have ever known – is a massive, crowded shed.

I used to have friends in here when we were smaller and there was a bit of space. Now we’re bigger it’s a struggle to even move and survival is everything. We fight for every drop of water from the nipple drinkers – the only water there is.

I know what I look like because I can see the state of those around me – filthy, matted feathers and caked eyes. I see some struggling to find food troughs. They’ve gone blind! I can’t see too well myself any longer.

At least I can still walk, unlike many in here. They have no option but to sit, even though ammonia on the floor burns their skin. I watch them dragging themselves through the burning muck on their wings to feed.

I don’t know what we’ve done to deserve this, but I hope someday soon they set us free.”


Death cycle of ducks
Gressingham Foods

Viva! investigates: Gressingham Foods Slaughterhouse and Processing Plant (November 2009).

The reality of the death of millions of ducks heading towards Britain’s supermarket shelves under the RSPCA’s Freedom Foods scheme was exposed by the first undercover investigation into the slaughter of Britain’s favourite bird.

Leading animal campaigning group Viva! secretly filmed the slaughter of ducks inside a factory of a company who supply major supermarkets including Waitrose, Co-op, Asda and Sainsbury’s.

The footage shows ducks struggling in distress as they are shackled, sent along a line to an electrocution tank, de-feathered and then having their heads pulled off. Workers also make the shocking admission that vets hardly ever observe slaughter.

Co-op Supermarket

In 2005 another shocking Viva! undercover investigation, the reality of life for Britain’s millions of factory farmed ducks was exposed to public view.

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Marks & Spencer

In 2004, Viva! and its supporters persuaded Marks & Spencer to drop factory-farmed whole duck, after countrywide protests outside its stores.

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Celebrity support

Viva! patron and actor, Martin Shaw, has joined forces with us to narrate this powerful short film; with footage from Viva!’s undercover filming over the last decade. It shows the plight of the 15 million ducks that are bred each year in the UK for meat. Most are intensively farmed indoors, without access to water for swimming – a huge welfare insult for these essentially wild birds. Killed at just seven weeks old, the only life most of them know is the four walls of their concrete prisons. This must end. We can make it end.

Martin Shaw: Actor and Viva! Patron

“Every time a spotlight is shone into yet another dark recess of factory farming I shake my head in disbelief and despair. I admire and wholeheartedly support Viva!’s undercover investigation into slaughter because through their disclosures comes hope of change.”


Ducks Out of Water

A report on the UK duck industry by Juliet Gellatley (Viva!) and Clare Druce (FAWN)



Further reading

Did you know that when a female duck lays eggs, she often places a few of them in another female’s nest? Scientists say she does this so that if something happens to her at least some of her young will survive.

Find out more about ducks and geese including fun facts, their natural life, how they are farmed and how they are killed »


Ducks and geese
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