Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

True 'horrors' of Freedom Food ducks exposed by first undercover investigation film of slaughter

Release date: 
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

THE reality of the death of millions of ducks heading towards Britain's supermarket shelves under the RSPCA's Freedom Foods scheme has been exposed by the first undercover investigation into the slaughter of Britain's favourite bird. Leading animal campaigning group Viva! have secretly filmed the slaughter of ducks inside a factory of a company who supply major supermarkets including Waitrose, Co-Op, Asda and Sainsbury's. View the short film of the footage at http://www.viva.org.uk/resources/video-library/duck-investigation-gressingham-foods-slaughterhouse-and-processing-plant.

The footage shows ducks struggling in distress as they are shackled, sent along a line to an electrocution tank, de-feathered and then having their heads pulled off. Workers also make the shocking admission that vets hardly ever observe slaughter. Viva! have recently held a peaceful Day of Action against Sainsbury's, on Saturday, December 12 2009.

Hundreds of people took part, handing out leaflets to shoppers - with over a hundred stores covered across the UK. More information here. Viva! founder and director, Juliet Gellatley, says: “Our undercover investigation has exposed - for the first time - the true horror of how millions of factory farmed ducks each year are slaughtered for our supermarket shelves.

Ducks are supposedly Britain's favourite bird, yet the reality of how they are killed is a million miles away from the freedom they enjoy swimming on a river. The distress, violence and suffering they are subjected to in these factories is beyond anyone's worst nightmare. Row upon row of ducks are crammed on a line - their death row - before they are electrocuted. Viva! believes consumers have a right to know how ducks end their life to be part of a so-called 'celebration feast' at Christmas and throughout the year. Most ducks killed for meat in the UK are just seven weeks old when they are slaughtered - no more than ducklings. Sainsbury's ducks don't go outside and they can't even swim. Water is life for ducks.

Juliet adds: “The factory farming of ducks is just plain wrong, no matter what welfare tinkering you do at the edges. That is why we are encouraging shoppers to try something kind this Christmas by not buying duck - or any other meat for that matter. The best way to end the suffering of animals is to go veggie.

To find out more about Viva!'s duck campaign, contact Justin Kerswell or Juliet Gellatley at Viva! by calling 0117 944 1000 or emailing info@viva.org.uk or visiting www.viva.org.uk/ducks ENDS For more information about this media release, please contact Juliet Gellatley, campaigns manager Justin Kerswell, or press officer Helen Rossiter by calling 0117 944 1000; or for out of hours enquiries, call 0794 453 3021.

Notes for editors:

Sainsbury's stores have been chosen after it was discovered by Viva! that the ducks the retail giant sell never go outside and never have access to water for swimming. Sainsbury's - who boast of being the largest retailer of duck meat in the UK - sell factory farmed duck, as do most other supermarkets. During Viva!'s recent undercover investigation of Gressingham Foods - the supplier of duck meat to Sainsbury's - the group filmed at the farms of one of their subsidiaries and found lame birds, ducks with crusty eyes and some with necks so painfully distorted they found it difficult to feed or drink. Sainsbury's have recently boasted of moving over to the RSPCA approved Freedom Foods standards, but Viva! have criticised this move as it will not mean that these essentially aquatic birds will go outside and it does not mean that they will ever swim. In November, Viva! also filmed inside one of the slaughterhouses of Gressingham Foods in Norfolk. This groundbreaking footage showed, amongst other things, footage of ducks struggling on the shackle line before they are electrocuted; birds attempting to escape; potential law and guideline breaches; and an admission on camera that a vet hardly ever observes slaughter.

The slaughterhouse kills thousands of birds a week for RSPCA accredited Freedom Foods scheme, as well as for other supermarkets including Tesco, Morrisons, Asda and Waitrose.

Fifteen million ducks were killed for meat in the UK last year - which has gone down from 22 million in 2001. Viva! has been campaigning to end the factory farming of ducks since 1999. The group's campaign has been instrumental in ending the practice of de-beaking of British ducks and has been credited by several supermarkets as the impetus for welfare improvements.