Ducks are semi-aquatic animals and spend a lot of their time in water. Their whole anatomy is built for life on water – webbed feet for swimming and bills brilliantly designed to sieve food particles from rivers and ponds. Ducks naturally use open water for head-dipping, swimming, dabbling and bathing. But in Britain’s factory farms, ducks live in stinking, filthy sheds. They can’t fly, they can’t swim and some can barely walk.
In 1999, Viva! were the very first to expose duck factory farming in the UK and our investigation laid bare the Co-op and M&S. Back then, we witnessed thousands of birds crammed into windowless sheds, with no access to the outside, fighting for survival amidst fetid ‘living’ conditions. There was no water for the ducks to swim in or clean themselves, and we found lame, dying and dead birds over and over again.
Over two decades later and what do you think has changed? Surely, Britain cannot still be farming ducks in the same cruel way. Surely, our society has evolved.
No. It has not. I know you love animals just as much as I do, so you will find what I am going to tell you next deeply upsetting. But I must tell you the truth. And not just you – the entire British public deserves to know the full extent of the cruel mistreatment of animals in the UK.
We received a tip-off from an ex-worker about appalling conditions inside a duck egg ‘farm’ near Lincolnshire. What they recounted was so troubling that we knew we had to act immediately. Our team of undercover investigators made their way to the farm, prepared for the worst.
On the first night when our investigators arrived, they installed hidden cameras to gather evidence of the cruelty happening in this hellhole. Despite countless investigations under their belts, what they found was so bad, that these words can never do it justice.
What We Found
It was immediately clear that the conditions that these ducks live – and die – in are utterly appalling.
- Lame and injured ducks were everywhere, left to suffer.
- Their most basic freedoms supposedly assured by the Animal Welfare Act (2006); to have access to a water provision to allow them to bathe, preen and dip their heads, had been denied.
- Mice and pigeons accessed the ducks’ feed troughs. Viruses and bacteria could spread easily between ducks and wildlife – biosecurity measures were non-existent.
- Lame ducks pushed themselves along the squalid litter on their bellies. They were unable to walk, so frantically flapped their wings in a bid to move.
- There were many ducks with pecking injuries.
- Hock burns were found on the feet of dead ducks, which come from the ammonia from the excreta in the litter.
Workers filmed brutally killing birds by pulling their necks
Some of the more disturbing footage reveals a worker grabbing a lame duck aggressively by one wing and then dragging her to the back of the shed where he callously dislocates her neck by pulling her head and feet in opposing directions.
Further footage shows a worker lifting another duck up by her head so she is dangling limply by her neck, and flinging her body around in circles, before dropping her to the floor. As she runs away, disorientated, a second worker then grapples with the duck, before dislocating her neck by pulling her head with force. He then discards the duck like she is nothing, throwing her into a corner.
Drakes present in flock
During filming, drakes marked with leg rings mated repetitively with the female ducks. A lame duck was mounted a number of times, because she was unable to walk or defend herself. She tried to use her wings to move away and push herself along the wet litter with her feet. Our informant told us that initially the drakes and ducks are separated but once they’ve mated, the workers don’t bother taking the drakes back out. This results in many fertilised eggs with foetuses being mixed into the general egg collection.
On the right-hand side of the shed were nest boxes intended for the ducks laying eggs. The reality is though, that the ducks don’t just lay in these boxes – eggs are everywhere, littered across the farm and covered in the same filth as the ducks themselves.
Cruelty approved by Stonegate and Lincolnshire Co-op
Duck eggs are marketed as a luxury food in the UK, but the way that these intelligent animals are treated is abhorrent – British consumers are being sold a lie! We have found evidence that this farm supplies duck eggs to major industry players Stonegate, and Noble Foods – who supply major supermarkets.
On Stonegate’s website, they paint an idyllic picture of egg farming, calling themselves “free-range and organic egg specialists”. They are careful to suggest images of carefree birds, while stating that “the care and welfare of the animals is of utmost importance”. On Noble Foods’ website, they claim “all our birds lay on farms with the finest welfare standards.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
During our investigation, none of the ducks left the filthy sheds, unless dead. Our informant confirmed our suspicion; during the seven months they worked at Field Farm, none of the ducks were ever allowed outdoors. They spent the entirety of their lives in litter-sodden sheds, living in their own excreta. When their egg-laying productivity drops, they are no longer deemed profitable and are killed in gas chambers, a vile and cruel ending to their miserable lives.
Our research also confirmed that the farm supplies Lincolnshire Co-op with their brand of Quack! Duck Eggs. Following the investigation, Lincolnshire Co-op suspended Quack! Duck Eggs and has since made the decision to discontinue all further sales.
On the Quack! Duck Eggs website, they proudly claim to be an independent, family-run business, one that “cares for our ducks from the very beginning, hatching them in our very own purpose-built hatchery”.
They continue: “We have learnt over time that the happier our birds are, the more eggs they lay and the tastier they are, so it is really important to us and our customers that our birds are as happy as can be!”
Platitudes aside, it is clear that their deception knows no bounds.
Take action now!
We urge you to please help these poor defenceless ducks living in unsanitary conditions, pain and poor health. Viva!’s fight has never been more urgent. In today’s ever-changing, fast-moving world, being able to respond and act quickly is crucial, and we need your help.
We cannot turn our backs on animal suffering, and we will not. But we urgently need your help to support our ongoing investigations. Our fight MUST continue.
Any gift you can make, big or small, will make a huge difference to the lives of animals. Please find it in your heart to give what you can and help us end this senseless cruelty and suffering.
Yours for the animals,