Ducks Out of Water campaign - keep up the pressure!
How to reply to letters from supermarkets & DEFRA
Thank you for writing protest letters to the supermarkets and DEFRA as part of Viva!'s Ducks out of Water campaign. Your support is vital and has helped us to achieve several major victories in the past. All the major supermarkets - Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Somerfield, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's - stopped selling debeaked barbary duck and Harrods stopped selling all factory farmed duck meat.
Waitrose has also announced that all of their own-label ducks now have
access to swimming and outdoor paddocks. This is all because of Viva!'s campaign. The message is clear - consumer power works. We just have to stick at it!
However, it still sucks for most of
- they have been forced out of the ponds and riversides and are still being confined in dirty, stinking, windowless sheds in their thousands.
- these aquatic birds, in the wild, would eat, swim, dive, clean and play in water - and yet most never see it, except in their drinkers.
- they never see their mothers, and are killed after just seven short weeks.
- they live in cramped squalor and die in fear and pain.
Apart from Waitrose, no other major British supermarket sells duck meat
from birds who ever have access to the outside or access to water for swimming. By selling factory-farmed ducks these supermarkets are legitimizing this cruelty - don't let them get away with it. By writing again to them you'll be keeping up the pressure and forcing them to respond directly to your questions.
Here are some guidelines for your letter. If you have already written twice, you may have received a different response. Look through and see whether your original points have been fully answered (unlikely!) and then chase up the supermarket concerned. If you keep receiving a generic response then tell the supermarket concerned that if they don't answer your questions specifically then they obviously don't value you as a customer. Ask them to address each of your points directly, or they risk losing your custom.
Below are some ideas for writing to specific supermarkets based on the responses that have been received back, but many of the points can be used to question more than one of them.
The Viva! website has lots of detailed information on duck farming in the UK and the low down on the investigations into Britain's major duck meat producers Manor Farm Ducklings and Kerry Foods (who also supply most of the UK's leading supermarkets), you can also watch our undercover video on-line.
[updated: November 2006]
Marks & Spencer
The Co-op 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
of 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.
Having stated they will not be introducing free-range birds, we can be fairly confident that, despite carrying the name Freedom Food, ducks from the Co-op will
still be reared in large sheds providing no outside access and no water for
swimming. What's ethical about that? As things stand, the Co-op appears to be playing a game of PR bluff.
We have asked to see these newly Freedom Foods accredited farms, but the Co-op
has refused - which beggars the questions: what do they have to hide?
Write back to the Co-op and use the points above. Tell them that you think it stinks that a company that claims - and indeed promotes itself - as being 'ethical' is still factory-farming essentially wild birds.
If Waitrose can provide outdoor swimming for their ducks why can't the Co-op? If they want to give any credence to their claims of being ethical they should end the sale of all duck meat immediately.
Write to: Martin Beaumont, CEO, Co-op, PO Box 53, New Century House, Manchester M60 4ES
send a virtual e-card from here)
Call: 0800 0686 727
2. Marks & Spencer:
In 2004, Viva! and its supporters persuaded Marks & Spencer to drop factory-farmed whole duck, after countrywide protests outside its stores and a blitz of media attention. This followed Viva!'s undercover investigation, which found atrocious conditions at their suppliers M&S assured us that they intended to roll out this decision to all of their duck meat products, and had a commitment to "promoting free-range poultry". However, a recent undercover investigation has revealed that not only has the chain cynically gone back on its word but
was still taking factory-farmed ducks from the same supplier we exposed two years ago, Manor Farm Ducklings. This new footage shows the usual litany of misery: thousands of ducks crammed into a shed, filthy and dejected; soaking litter; ducks blinded from lack of water with which to preen; and ducks with open, bleeding sores.
M&S's response has been to drop MFD Foods as a supplier, whilst they undertake an investigation. Ask them, why if they operate such stringent controls time and time again investigations have revealed the same scenes of suffering and neglect. We've heard it all before. Please contact M&S to express your disgust that they have gone back on their word, and to tell them that they should drop factory farmed duck once and for all.
Waitrose are currently providing outdoor swimming for their free-range ducks.
M&S has announced that it will shortly be trialling providing water for
swimming. However, talk is cheap! Trialling is one thing - action quite another.
Insist that M&S at the very least follow the lead of their nearest competitor -
by dropping factory farmed ducks once and for all and give this most basic of
requirements for wild water birds - access to water for swimming.
Write to: Stuart Rose, Chief Executive, Marks & Spencer, Waterside House, 35 North Wharf Rd, London, W2 1NW.
send a virtual e-card from
Call: 0845 302 1234
3. Iceland: Ask them why they were sourcing duck meat from a supplier who doesn't even meet the bare recommendations for the welfare of ducks as set out by DEFRA. Ask them to justify the scenes of neglect and squalor we exposed when we filmed at two Manor Farm Ducklings sites, as well as the recent investigation from 2006 which showed identical scenes of suffering and neglect. Iceland haven't even gone as far as M&S, they are still taking ducks from MFD foods. Ask Iceland why if they are genuinely concerned about animal welfare they source from a producer that forces aquatic animals to battle for every drop of water from drinkers designed for chickens. If they are genuinely concerned they should not be selling factory farmed duck meat at all. It is unnatural to confine ducks in sheds and never allow them outside.
Write to: Mr Mike Coupe, Iceland Foods, Second Avenue, Deeside Industrial Park, Deeside, Flintshire, CH5 2NW.
Email Iceland from their website
Call: 01244 842842
4. Safeway / Morrisons: The Safeway response is hopelessly inadequate and does not address any of Viva!'s specific concerns. Ask what type of drinkers the ducks have and whether birds are able to immerse their heads under water (we have seen from the video taken at Manor Farm Ducklings, their supplier, this is not the case). Without being able to fulfil this most basic requirement, ducks find it hard to keep warm and may develop eye problems and even blindness (as is shown in the video). Say that as aquatic animals, ducks need to be able to swim and if water for swimming cannot be provided within the sheds then they should be allowed outside to bathe. Ask what they mean when they say they "adhere to all standards . as required by DEFRA"? DEFRA don't set standards, they only have non-legally binding set of recommendations which many producers can ignore safe in the knowledge they won't be prosecuted. Also ask why they claim to have been "recently" voted one of the top three supermarkets for their "commitment to animal welfare" by CIWF? When, in fact, that was in 2001; this year, they came fifth out a possible eight, and scored only half the available points!
Note: since Safeway was taken over by the Morrison Group earlier this year there is no executive board left, so write to Morrison's with your concerns (we sent them the video) - this will give you an opportunity to quiz them as well! Tell Morrison's that you believe there are more important things than just giving customers cheap food. Cutting animal welfare provisions is definitely not an acceptable way to cut costs. Recently, Morrisons announced they were no longer sourcing ducks from the Manor Farm Ducklings farm featured in the latest investigation. This seems to be a pattern: drop the individual farms and carry on using the supplier. Tell them this isn't good enough. They should drop all factory-farmed duck meat entirely.
Write to: Sir Kenneth D. Morrison, Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC, Hilmore House, Thornton Rd, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD8 9AX.
Call Morrisons: 01274 356000
5. Somerfield: Tell them that you are not satisfied with their response and that you want more information. Explain that you think it is cruel that the ducks they sell are kept on factory farms where they are "barred from getting to the outside". Ask them what exactly the on farm death rate is. 5% is a figure that is often quoted as the norm by producers, that may sound low, but when you consider
19 million ducks are killed each year in the UK for meat that means around a million of them die before they even reach seven weeks of age. Ask them whether the ducks are able to swim or immerse their heads in water and whether you can have details of the standards set in the producer's welfare code. The standard letter suggests the letter writer take up their concerns with MAFF. Ask them how you should do this seeing as MAFF hasn't existed since 2001! MAFF is now DEFRA. Perhaps suggest that this slip up on Somerfield's part suggests that they clearly don't take duck welfare very seriously if they haven't changed their reply letter for five years. Besides, tell them you believe that if Somerfield are selling meat from ducks reared in totally unacceptable conditions, it is Somerfield's responsibility to change that.
Write to: John Von Speckelsen, Chief Executive, Somerfield Stores, Somerfield House, Whitchurch Lane, Bristol BS14 OTJ.
Email Somerfield from their website.
Call: 0117 935 6669
6. Sainsbury's: Sainsbury's did sell free-range ducks in some of their stores, but when we met them in February 2005 they told us they had stopped. Despite this, their standard letter continues to claim that they sell free-range ducks in some of their stores, providing customers with "choice". Ask them to clarify what their real position is, and why they make this claim if it is not true.
Sainsbury's reply letter usually makes reference to them using the 5 basic freedoms as a basis for their welfare policies, but scratch the surface and it becomes less reassuring. Of course birds crammed in together in sheds will have 'the company of other birds'! They are only allowed to express 'most' normal patterns of behaviour (which patterns of behaviour are they allowed to express? They cannot develop family structures or fulfil any of their natural behaviour with regards to water). What is 'comfort'? In the sheds we saw, the straw was soaking wet. The sheds are only cleaned out at the end of each 'cycle' - in between new straw is simply heaped onto the old straw (not an easy job when thousands of ducks are in the shed). When they speak about 'freedom of movement', they don't give detail as to how much the ducks will be able to move. Just because the ducks are not kept in battery cages doesn't mean they are not overcrowded. Ask them to give you more information and reiterate your opposition to factory farming.
Waitrose are providing all their ducks access to water for
swimming right now. Why can't Sainsburys?
Write to: Justin King, Group Chief Executive, J Sainsbury plc, 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT.
Email Sainsbury's from their website
Call: 0800 636 262 (freephone)
7. Waitrose: Acknowledge that all of
the ducks that Waitrose sells are now 'free-range'. Say that you welcome the fact that their 'free-range' Pekin ducks have access to open paddocks and
that you are especially pleased that they have introduced outdoor ponds for
swimming. However, ask them if they have plans to reduce maximum flock sizes down from around
4,000 as you find it hard to imagine being able to maintain high animal welfare standards with that many birds.
Whilst the welfare standards are, comparatively, better than any other
supermarket, Waitrose ducks will still only live for 49 days (the industry
standard seven weeks). Ask them why their ducks live such short lives when, in
the wild they can live for ten years or more in the wild. Finally, ask them what plans for
duck welfare they have in the future.
Until January 2005 Waitrose sold factory farmed Barbary ducks (they stopped
partly because of pressure from us and our supporters). This was of real concern
to Viva! as Barbary ducks are naturally aggressive and can peck each other, something which is aggravated by being crammed together with many other birds. Waitrose
didn't de-beak these ducks but claimed to control their aggression by "light". It is common practice for some producers to keep poultry at very low light intensities to discourage activity and maximise growth rate. Research has shown that this results in inactivity, which causes increases in lameness and skin diseases and, at very low levels, the development of eye abnormalities. Tell Waitrose that you
are pleased that they no longer sell Barbary duck, and ask them to promise not
to reintroduce it.
Write to: Steven Esom, Managing Director, Waitrose, Southern Industrial Area, Bracknell RG12 8YA.
Call: 0800 188 884 (freephone)
8. Tesco: Viva! recently scored a
major victory against Tesco, forcing them to change misleading packaging which
showed images of bulrushes and reeds - giving the impression to consumers that
their ducks had access to the outside and access to water for swimming (neither
of which is true). Our complaint was supported by both The Food Standards Agency
and Trading Standards. In your letter to Tesco's, say that their packaging
should now tell the truth: that all of Tesco's ducks are crammed into industrial
sheds without access to water for swimming or access to the outside.
Tesco letters often claim that their Livestock Codes of Practice for duck production are based on RSPCA Freedom Foods standards.
It is true that the farms that supply Tesco with their ducks are Freedom Foods
accredited. However, 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
(Tesco's certainly aren't), nor that they will have access to water for swimming. BBC Watchdog and other programme producers have filmed inside Freedom Food farms and exposed appalling conditions.
Tesco often boast that they have funded a project called The Food Animal Initiative (FAI), which supposedly looks at ways to improve animal welfare. Ask them to tell you exactly how many animal welfare improvements they have implemented - specifically in relation to ducks.
Like M&S, Tesco have recently announced that they will trial giving their ducks
access to water for swimming. Ask them to give you more information and tell
them that you believe it is impossible to have high animal welfare standards on
a factory farm - and, at the very least, they should follow Waitrose's lead by
providing free access to outdoor paddocks and uninterrupted access to water for
Write to: Philip Clarke, Chief Executive, Tesco, Tesco House, PO Box 18, Delamare Road, Cheshunt, Herts EN8 9SL.
Call: 0800 505 555 (freephone)
9. DEFRA: If DEFRA shares your concerns over the conditions in which ducks are kept, why aren't they taking action to change things? Explain that in your view, intensively farmed ducks are subjected to unnecessary distress on a daily basis by being deprived of their most fundamental biological requirement - water, except in their drinkers. However, you can say that you do not believe that welfare codes are effective because they are not legally enforceable. In any case, the code for ducks legitimises factory farming by suggesting stocking densities of seven ducklings per square metre. Ask what changes will be made when the code is updated to incorporate the Council of Europe's recommendations. Will ducks be provided with water for swimming?
Although ducks are supposed to be stunned before slaughter, they are known to "swan neck" - raising their heads when entering the electrical waterbath and so avoiding full immersion. These birds will not be stunned properly - if at all - and will be knifed whilst conscious. Ask whether DEFRA is taking steps to tackle this problem. Explain that overall, you do not agree that DEFRA has substantial provisions in place to care for the welfare of ducks and that on the contrary, they are doing their utmost to legitimise a barbaric industry.
Write to: Ben Bradshaw, Minister for Farm Animal Welfare, DEFRA, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR.
Email DEFRA: email@example.com