New research shows that eight out of ten people are 'appalled' that farmed duck can be reared without bathing water and think it should be illegal.
More ducks are being farmed in the UK but, shamefully, welfare has taken a backward step with millions of ducks being deprived of the very basics like bathing water.
Today we launched the Like a duck to water campaign to improve conditions for Britain's forgotten farm animal.
Dr Marc Cooper, duck welfare expert from our farm animal science team, said:
Ducks are waterfowl, they need bathing water, why else would they have webbed feet?
Bathing water is good for ducks' health. It helps keep their eyes, nostrils and feathers clean. And in the same way that pigs like to root and chickens like to dust bathe, ducks like to have bathing water so they can do all the things ducks naturally do.
Like a duck to water
Our 'Like a duck to water' campaign is highlighting the terrible conditions UK ducks can legally be reared in and trying to put the brakes on falling welfare.
Find out more about our campaign and urge supermarkets to only stock duck which has access to bathing water - take action now!
By law, ducks can be reared in sheds with no windows, don't have be given bedding, and can be given nothing more than a metal ball bearing-type water drinker similar to that given to pet hamsters. (pictured left)
Some ducks in the UK can be reared to the duck industry’s own Duck Assurance scheme standards, but this scheme doesn't require ducks to have natural daylight or bathing water.
RSPCA welfare standards insist on bathing water as well as bedding and natural daylight. But, worryingly, the proportion of ducks being reared to these standards has dropped from about half of UK production in 2010 to about 30 per cent last year and it has declined further in the first few months of this year.
One of the contributing factors is that one major duck producer and supermarkets have downgraded from RSPCA welfare standards to join the Duck Assurance Scheme – a huge backwards step for the welfare of about 2 million ducks.
Duck 'seen as a luxury'
Eloise Shavelar, RSPCA campaigner, said:
More ducks are being reared in the UK but sadly welfare appears to be getting worse.
Even animal lovers don't realise that there are severe welfare problems for farmed duck because it's seen as a luxury product and therefore shoppers don't think it's intensively reared in a similar way to chicken.
We've all grown up seeing ducks on ponds at the park and naturally assume farmed ducks must have bathing water too – incredibly, that is not the case.
We want shoppers to know the truth about the duck meat they buy and help make life better for Britain’s forgotten farm animal.
Look for the logo
Shoppers can make sure they are buying higher welfare by looking for the Freedom Food logo which means the duck comes from farms inspected to the RSPCA's strict welfare standards.
Freedom Food labelled duck is on sale at some branches of Sainsbury’s.
Watch our animated film
We have produced an animated film about the plight of Jennifer the Pekin duck called Uncomfortable Tails.
Watch the film here: www.rspca.org.uk/ducktowater
British Poultry Council release statement that is misleading
To bathe is to immerse one’s body in water (Oxford dictionary). The RSPCA believes it is misleading for the British Poultry Council to claim that the Duck Assurance Scheme provides ducks with bathing water when in reality they only insist that farms provide a channel of water that is just a few centimetres wide, a few centimetres deep and that only allows ducks to get their heads in. It is like going to a hotel which has promised you can have a bath but finding you have only got a handbasin!
Read our full response here:
RSPCA statement - Duck to water campaign (PDF 301KB)