Day of the Ducks!: April 3 2004
On April 3rd, Viva! supporters from all over the UK protested outside
Marks & Spencer stores, to highlight the plight
of the factory-farmed ducks our undercover filming had exposed at one of the store’s main
suppliers. Replicating the scale of our recent Day of Action against Tesco,
this day was an overwhelming success. M&S could not fail to hear the
message that the ongoing abuse of Britain’s favourite bird has to
Through a covert investigation over a six month period, Viva! exposed
the dreadful conditions on two intensive duck farms farms belonging to
Manor Farm Ducklings, one of M&S’ major suppliers (click here to find out more). M&S’ response to our investigation was to
defend their supplier. They seemed more concerned about their reputation
than the welfare of their animals (For our response to Marks & Spencer’s
claims, click here). We wanted to publicise both the shocking findings
of our investigation and break through M&S’ wall of spin. Viva!
mobilised our supporters for a Day of the Ducks! against them this April.
We printed over a hundred thousand leaflets plus post cards, comment cards
and posters and Viva! supporters responded with a flood of correspondence
to M&S’ head office and a barrage of phone calls to their customer
services. Hundreds of people contacted us, eager to take part in the Day
Spreading the Word
On April 3rd Viva! activists distributed almost 130,000 leaflets about
our investigation to the customers of nearly 200 M&S stores. There
were protests from Guernsey to Inverness – thousands of people discovered
the truth about factory farming and were able to talk about and find out
how to act positively about their concerns. Many were totally outraged
that M&S – a store that promotes itself as being “compassionate” – would
be so thoroughly involved in factory farming. Concerned shoppers flocked
to sign petitions urging the store to stop selling duck meat from intensive
units, and many people felt strongly enough to hand in specially made customer
cards inside the stores to register their disgust. Through excellent media
coverage – including a full-page exposé in the Daily Mail
and local press and radio – the message got out to millions more.
M&S couldn’t fail to be embarrassed, and their weak rebuffs on
the day were evidence enough that they knew we had the upper hand.
The day couldn’t have been the success it was without the dedication
and resolve of the people all round the country that took part. Stars on
the day included Dianne and her group who traveled to M&S stores in
Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Durham, South Shields and Sunderland, where they met
with other Viva! supporters. There were fifteen protestors at Oxford Circus,
in London, handing out leaflets and chatting to hundreds of shoppers. The
enthusiastic response of Wendy who demonstrated in Shrewsbury was typical: “We
were a small but determined group and gave out all leaflets (1000) in just
over a couple of hours! We had an excellent response and many people were
truly shocked to discover the truth about M&S’ duck meat, and
in fact the cruelty involved in all factory farmed duck meat.”
Some supporters had been so touched by the plight of the Manor Farm ducks
that they pledged to demonstrate in public for the first time, and some
were so admirably determined that the message needed to be heard that they
staged lone protests, when no one else in their area was able to help out.
Meher, who staged a demo outside the Swiss Cottage branch, said of the
day: “We got a page of signatures for the petition from people who
were really shocked, who shop regularly at Marks, and who have promised
to write to the head office.” Responses from each store were mixed – from
benign indifference or even interest from some, to downright rudeness.
Meher says, “The store manager was extremely rude, came out to us
to check that we were well away from her store property, denied all accusations
of what was happening on the farm, said she would not take any post cards,
and we know she was intimidating her staff from taking any either. A young
man went in with the card and told us that they had thrown it into the
bin.” Is this any way for a store to treat its customers? Meher said
she would write to M&S head office to complain, and we suggest anyone
else who had this kind of treatment do the same.
Overall, we couldn’t have wished for a better reaction from the
public: especially from one gentleman who told supporters that finding
out what happened to ducks was the last straw, and he was turning vegetarian
on the spot!
There can be no high standards on a factory farm. No amount of M&S’ creative
PR could hide the stark truth: in their miserable seven week existence
these dirty, dejected birds never feel the freedom of an open river, they
never feel the sun on their backs – and they never even spend one
moment with their mothers. Their biological needs are routinely and cruelly
ignored. Why, it has to be asked, are M&S “happy” with
Viva!’s supporters shamed the M&S by exposing the truth that
their claims of ‘high animal welfare standards’ are meaningless
when they profit from the kind of animal suffering we exposed. The general
public were justifiably shocked and angry by this level of animal suffering,
especially by this “compassionate” store. Denying ducks access
to water is just legalised animal abuse. The producers know it. M&S
know it. They just didn’t want their customers to know it – but
now they do, thanks to you.
We must never lose sight of the fact that all supermarkets sell factory
farmed ducks, not just M&S. That’s why our campaign has only
just begun – but it has begun with an outstanding success, and we
are already planning for the future.
These are just a handful of the dozens of press stories about the Viva!
protests. Click on the clippings below to read the full article:
So many people took part in the Day of the Ducks! that we simply haven’t
the space to name them all. If you organised a demo; took part in
one; distributed leaflets in your workplace, school or neighbourhood
the day in any other way, we thank you, again, from the bottom of
our hearts. Your support is vital to the work we do.
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