Ducklings reared in 'squalid' battery sheds

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Animal welfare groups have launched a campaign against intensive duck farming, after an investigation revealed that hundreds of thousands of birds are being reared in "appalling, squalid and cruel" conditions.

Animal welfare groups have launched a campaign against intensive duck farming, after an investigation revealed that hundreds of thousands of birds are being reared in "appalling, squalid and cruel" conditions.

A switch away from traditional turkeys for Christmas by many has resulted in a large increase in duck farming, with the UK leading the world in scale and intensity. Animal rights activists say the public is unaware that 90 per cent of duck meat consumed in the UK now comes from conditions similar to those found in battery chicken and turkey farming.

Entertainers such as Sir Paul McCartney, Joanna Lumley and the former model Twiggy, will take part in high street protests outside stores selling factory-farmed ducks to tell shoppers about the "wretched existence" that the birds endure before they are killed.

A report by Viva (Vegetarians' International Voice for Animals) and Fawn (Farm Animal Welfare Network) found that up to 10,000 birds are often packed into one shed, with no natural light, no access to water for swimming and no space to exercise. Attempts are being made to keep costs down, with results such as the case where one worker, with responsibility for more than 85,000 birds, ended up with many sick and injured ducks, suffering lingering and painful deaths while lying in their own excrement.

Activists say the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) pleads commercial confidentiality when refusing to answer queries about the welfare of ducks, but the real reason is a reticence to interfere with a highly lucrative industry. They say that a European convention states that "the design, construction and main- tenance of enclosures ... should be such that they allow the fulfilment of essential biological requirements of ducks, in particular in respect of water". This is plainly not happening under intensive conditions, they say.

At on farm, 130,000 ducks live on littered concrete floors with limited access to water, says the Viva and Fawn report, which refers to several producers. Juliet Gellatley, director of Viva, said: "The UK leads the way in this kind of duck farming, it is nothing to be proud of."

Sir Paul McCartney said: "It is terrible that people in so-called civilised society should be involved in such practices." Ms Lumley added: "The cruelty of duck farming has to end, don't buy the meat of these sad, dejected creatures."

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