Society for the Advancement of Animal Wellbeing

- Protecting Animals and Conserving the Environment

Ducks and geese

Geese are very loyal animals that choose one partner with whom they will stay with for their entire 25 years of life. If they lose their partner they will go in to solitary mourning and will not to replace their beloved.

They are also caring and doting parents; if one of their chicks becomes sick and can not fly south for the winter; this incredibly selfless parent will stay through the winter by the side of his or her child, risking death from freezing.

Families of geese join together in a large group called a gaggle and in deed the considerate nature of these beings even apply to members of the extended family. If one of them gets sick or is injured some of the gaggle members will lag behind for support. They also fly in a distinctive v-shape which cuts wind resistance and allows them to fly 70% further than an individual geese could. They take turns flying in the front; such is their spirit of brotherhood. These considerate birds also enjoy preening and nest building.

Ducks are also exceptionally sociable and enjoy spending time in groups, interacting with one another. Ducks apart from swimming can also fly at up to 60 miles per hour. They use a number of vocalization as well as body language to communicate.

One study conducted by Dr Victoria De Rijke at Middlesex University in the UK showed that ducks from different regions had different accents and that birds that lived in the city had a louder quack so that they could be heard clearly.

Factory farmed ducks!?

However the lives of these birds in factory farms or foie gras production facilities are far removed from the conditions found in nature. They never get to swim let alone see water; they never get to soar in the blue sky or walk on the green grass or even breathe fresh air. Instead they are imprisoned and subjected to the most awful treatment imaginable.

In the US alone 24 million ducks are slaughtered annually but this does not include the number of ducks killed for foie gras. In the UK the number of ducks killed purely for meat is 18 million, though in Asian countries such as China where Peking duck is a speciality this number is thought to be much higher.

First, to produce chicks, the male duck known as the drake is pulled from his cage and is forcibly milked; this highly invasive molestation causes great psychological distress to the animal. The female duck is then artificially inseminated. This painful procedure will be carried out 3 times a week using a cold metal pipe that is roughly shoved in to the cervix.

After 66 weeks of being kept as a breeding machine the duck will then be killed. In its short and pitiful life the mother will produce approximately 270 eggs where as in a natural setting she would typically have only laid 30 eggs. Such abnormally high levels of egg production cause numerous health conditions which may ultimately kill the female duck. Commonly they will suffer from Egg Peritonitis this is caused by inflammation of the uterus and ovaries from egg debris. Excessive egg production also causes obstruction of the oviducts as well as rupturing of the oviduct wall which will leads to infections and a painfully slow death.

The eggs that are produced are then put in to an incubator where they will be left to hatch. Any unwanted or sick chicks will be thrown in to a macerator which is a metal grinding machine that shreds the baby ducklings alive.

The rest of the ducklings will be imprisoned in sheds with up to 10,000 fellow innocent inmates. However before this they will have the upper part of their bills or beaks cut off. This cruel procedure is performed to stop the bird from plucking out their own feathers and from pecking at other animals, however they only behave this was because of the anxiety they suffer from their confinement.

A far more effective method of reducing this stress induced neurosis would be to allow the ducks to run outside once a day. Instead their highly sensitive bills which are filled with nerves and sensory receptors are callously hacked off with an electrical knife and then seared with heat. This causes excruciating life long pain similar to that of human amputees. Many ducks will die from the crude operation as it is carried out without anesthetics or proper sanitization. Yet some birds will die from shock or from starvation as they are unable to eat because of the immense pain.

Life in the shed is nothing short of gruesome, the floors are made from wire mesh and are covered in excrement, this makes the floor very slippery consequently the birds sustain sprains and other leg injuries. A limb injury can cause animals to die as they are unable to reach the food or water.

For these semi-aquatic animals that spend much of their time on water, lack of access to a pool, pond or stream causes numerous traumas both psychological and physical. The only access they have to water is from tiny nipple feeders of which there is only 1 for every 4 thirsty ducks. Being very clean animals they use water to splash and bathe themselves without being able to do this they get very dirty very quickly and thus disease runs rampant through out the shed.

Such diseases include: duck virus enteritis, duck virus hepatitis, E.coli septicemia, salmonellosis, fungal infections, rickets from poor nutrition as well as a host of other viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. Some die from a condition known as “starve out” this when the animal is so utterly shocked and confused by his environment that he just shuts down and refuses to eat.

To get these ducks a big as possible as soon as possible the lights are left on constantly for 23 hours a day to get them to eat more, this unnatural lighting cycle is mental torture. As these birds have been genetically modified they increase in weight 10% faster than normal and their breast grows 25% larger than it should. This excessive growth causes a number of problems including a crippling abnormality of the legs and lameness. Also the internal organs of the animals get squashed together and may cause organ failure. At the young age of 7 weeks they are ready for slaughter.  

Transport and slaughter 

When the shed is finally cleared, the workers will come in and frantically grab as many ducks as they can and stuff them in to crates. The weak ducks are grabbed by their delicate necks or feet or by any other appendage and thus many inevitably end up with broken and sprained necks and legs, some will die and of course all of the birds end up terrified and scared.

Next they are transported to the slaughter house, the transport in itself is harsh, traveling through various climatic conditions the birds are exposed to scorching heat and freezing cold.

Finally they will have their lives stolen from them by a variety of methods including “dislocation” of the neck, this is when the neck is manually wrung or twisted with force, the animal will not be stunned before this and it is an agonizing and distressful way to die. This method is usually employed when there is an excessive demand during Christmas or other festivals.

Usually the helpless ducks are hung upside down in shackles. The conveyor will then dunk the animals in an electrified bath in order to render the animal unconscious, to do this a current of 250 mA is required however most baths only possess a  charge of 51 mA, this means that instead of reducing the duck’s pain they are further tortured with a painful electrical shock. Some birds even crane their neck to avoid the bath, and so these sentient beings will be fully aware as they have their necks slit open with a knife and are subsequently submerged in scolding water, so that their feathers may be plucked easily.

What must be the most brutal method of slaughter is called “sticking”, in this heinous killing method the duck is hung upside down then a knife is put in to the mouth to cut the roof of the mouth and pierce the brain, then the jugular vein is cut in the throat. The duck can be seen convulsing, choking and spluttering on its own blood as he or she bleeds out. This is still common practice.

Watch a 6 minute documentary on duck factory farms, produced by http://www.viva.org.uk/ (or scroll down to find out about Foie Gras production)

Foie gras

Foie gras which is considered a delicacy but results in probably the cruelest and most unnatural treatment of sentient beings ever conceived. Listed as a gourmet food it is actually a severely diseased liver which is made up of 60% fat where as a normal goose liver will only have 6.6% fat content.

Foie gras literally means “fatty liver” in French and is traditionally produced by force feeding geese although ducks have become more popular as they take up less space and can be slaughtered at a younger age. France is the largest producer of this inhumane food but it is also manufactured in other countries as well as in the US where half a million ducks are slaughtered annually for this so called delicacy.

Let’s now take a closer look at the uncivilized and sadistic world of foie gras production. After the geese are hatched they will be sorted, the females will be tossed alive in to a metal grinding machine as their livers are thought to have a rougher and thus undesirable texture.

The baby ducks or geese will spend the first 4 weeks of life eating and growing. From 4 to 8 weeks the goslings and ducklings are confined to a cage and are fed a high protein and starch diet that promotes rapid growth.

After this they are crammed in to cages the size of a shoe box with not even enough room to turn or spread their wings. Their heads permanently protrude from the cage so as to make it easier for them to be handled. For the next 14-28 days the birds will be force fed a high fat diet of corn mixed with oil and salt.

Using a 12 inch long metal tube the mush is forced through their mouths and throats in to their stomachs with a pneumatic pump. This force feeding may happen up to 4 or 5 times per day. In total 2 to 3 kg (4 to 6) pounds of the corn mush is pumped in to each goose that is the equivalent of a human being forced to eat 20 to 27 kg (44 to 60 pounds) of pasta every day for a month.

The metal tube causes massive damage, pain and distress to the animals. The esophagus gets bruised, torn or sometimes is completely split open. These wounds fester and become infected, sometimes maggots can be found eating the necks of live geese.

The diet is deliberately designed to encourage the liver to become diseased and swollen to 10 times its normal weight eventually weighing in at 1.2 kilograms (see image on the left for scale). The foie gras disease is called hepatic lipidosis.

As the liver gets damaged it can no longer performs its function of filtering out toxins so the birds suffer from a variety of systemic and metabolic disorders including brain damage known as hepatic encephalitis.

Diseases associated with the jamming of the metal pipe down the esophagus include bronchial obstruction, hemorrhagic inflammation as well as aspiration pneumonia, this is caused by the food being forced accidentally in to the lungs instead of the stomach.

Other breathing problems occur as the liver enlarges and takes up too much space thus exerting pressure on the lungs and other internal organs. (on the left is the photo of a duck force fed to death)

Some geese have been known to just burst open with all their insides spilling out through the anus or belly. Handling is so rough that sometimes the esophagus and stomach may rip leading to a slow agonizing death. Each force feeding is subsequently more painful than the last as the wounds in the throat get worse and worse. Hardly able to stand due to their abnormal size and the ulcers on their feet, these birds are kept in near total darkness for the entire time in order to calm them down.

Standing in their own feces and vomit, malaise sets in so that even when rats come in to the shed and gnaw at their legs, the birds are too weak and frustrated to move. So horrendous is the treatment of foie gras geese that their pre-slaughter mortality rate is 20 times higher than that of a duck or goose at a factory farm. At the young age of 3 months, the geese or ducks will be slaughtered by the process of “sticking” this is when the knife is introduced in to the mouth and the brain is pierced and the jugular is cut internally.

The diseased liver will be cut out and sold for a premium price and the feathers from the goose known as “down” are used in winter jackets, sleeping bags and other such items.

Solutions

These animals do not want to suffer these atrocities committed upon them; instead they, just like us want to live. They want to swim and waddle in the water and care for their young, they want to fly and forage for food.

There is a very a simple and effective way to stop this cruelty and injustice and it works immediately, that is to stop eating them. Adopting a plant based, vegan or vegetarian diet will ensure the life and liberty of these intelligent and caring beings.

 

To find out what else you can do please visit the How You Can Help section.

Click here to go back to the factory farming section or read more about other issues regarding animals here.

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