Crispy duck'- the most popular dish in the UK's Chinese restaurants " contains just as much health-damaging fat as a deep fried Mars bar, claims the campaign group, Viva!. Crispy Duck is also no. 3* in the takeaway charts, coming behind fish and chips and pizza but beating chicken tikka masala into fourth place. This supposed delicacy is unhealthy enough to give Gillian McKeith a heart attack, claims the group, and is a product of intensive factory farming - birds crammed as many as 10,000 to a single shed, reared on a battery of drugs and antibiotics and never allowed even to see water, except to drink.
Viva! is using the Chinese New Year (January 29) to ask consumers to duck out of eating duck for the sake of their health and the plight of the animals. Through its thousands of supporters, it is organising a door dropping campaign in all regions of the UK with a leaflet entitled "The Unhappy Duck'. With claims such as "Calorie packed' and "Cruelty assured', it explains the health implications of eating crispy duck and outlines what life is like for a factory-farmed bird.
Just like that other national favourite, chicken tikka masala, crispy duck is a concoction designed solely to appeal to the British palate. Many traditional Chinese meals are low in fat but crispy duck involves deep frying and is served with its fatty skin, making it one-quarter fat by weight, much of it the most harmful, saturated kind and calories and cholesterol skyrocket. The risk of heart disease and strokes increases. A typical starter meal with four Crispy duck pancakes (containing a quarter-duck) can top 900 calories; typically a main meal (of half-a-roast-duck) contains over 2,400 calories**.
Viva!'s report on duck farming (Ducks Out of Water) details how almost all 18 million ducks killed in the UK each year come from factory farms and almost none is provided with water for swimming or preening. As aquatic birds, they can express none of their basic instincts, can suffer from dirty, dishevelled feathers, eye infections and even blindness. Death and disease are commonplace. Viva! has filmed at all the major duck producers in the UK.
Viva!'s senior campaigner, Justin Kerswell, says: "Most people wouldn't dream of eating a deep-fried Mars bar but chomping crispy duck is just as damaging as that (supposed) Glasgow delicacy. Because duck meat is seen as slightly exotic, it's somehow regarded as a delicacy and not a cruel product of factory farming. The truth is that most crispy duck comes from birds reared in stinking sheds who never get a chance to swim or splash around in water. We're saying to people, "Next time you fancy a Chinese, give the ducks - and your heart - a break and opt for a healthy, animal-friendly veggie dish instead.''
For further information read Viva!'s fully-referenced report on Crispy Duck at: http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/ducks/unhappy_duck_report.htm. Or contact Justin Kerswell on 0117 944 1000. Read Viva!'s veggie Chinese recipes here: http://www.viva.org.uk/recipes/chinese/
* BBC2 TV series, "The Nation's Favourite Food'
** Figures derived from McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of Foods (Sixth Summary Edition) Food Standards Agency. 2002. Based on 0.42 (edible mass) of a typical 2.6kg carcase.