Photo: Farm Sanctuary
Ducks and Geese
Over six million farmed ducks and geese are produced in Canada for food each year. Mulard ducks, a hybrid breed, are used for meat and foie gras. Farmed geese, less numerous than ducks, are farmed primarily in Manitoba for food and feather production. Since the 1960s, geese have not been as prevalent a part of foie gras production.
Farmed ducks live in extremely crowded, barren conditions with poor ventilation with thousands of other ducks. Geese are housed in crowded outdoor pens where lameness and painful feather pecking result.
Duck droppings produce about four times the ammonia of those of chickens bred for meat due to their high moisture content. The ammonia in the air inflames the birds’ air passages and their eyes. Ducks absorb twice as much ammonia gas in their bodies as mammals.
Because ducks can resort to feather pecking in the severely overcrowded industrial barns, young ducks have their bills cut, without anesthesia, resulting in acute and chronic pain. Their extremely sensitive bills are cut with a cautery blade, either cold or searing hot, causing extreme pain.
A duck’s anatomy is made to be immersed in water for bathing, swimming, to maintain body temperature, healthy feathers and to clean their eyes. Ducks deprived of a water environment will suffer from overheating, eye infections, other ailments, and overwhelming stress.
Male ducks are subject to the extreme inhumane practice of force feeding to produce foie gras. Foie gras is a food inhumanely produced by grossly enlarging the livers of male ducks and geese through force-feeding.
Among factory farming practices, it is the only one in which animals are purposefully raised to become deformed and diseased. Force feeding high-energy food such as corn causes the birds’ livers to swell up to ten times their normal size, inducing a disease called “hepatic lipidosis.” This condition causes birds pain and suffering, and often kills them.
In the last few weeks of their lives, up to four pounds of food per day are pumped into the birds’ stomachs through long metal pipes forced down their throats. Most foie gras production is highly intensified, meaning the birds are kept in tiny individual cages. They stand on metal grates and cannot turn around or flap their wings.
Only the neck protrudes, allowing the feeder to grab the bird’s head to force the beak open for feeding. Some birds experience torn necks and ruptured internal organs from the feeding tubes.
The extra calories (up to five times what conventional meat ducks are fed) result in excess body heat. During the force-feeding phase, birds pant to cool off and some die from the resulting heat stress. Liver failure or rupture is also common.
Foie gras is banned in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Israel, Argentina, Australia (allows imports), India, most Austrian provinces, California and New York City. In Canada, which does not ban foie gras, several Quebec farms produce it and export a large portion of it.
The National Farm Animal Care Council does not have codes of practice specifically for farmed ducks and geese and relegate them generally under “poultry” codes of practice.