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RSPCA Condemns Cruelty on Duck Farm

11 February 2011
Poultry Digital - Two weekly eBulletin for the global poultry industry

UK - The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has hit out at scenes of cruelty shown in covert video footage taken at a duck farm in Norfolk.

The animnal welfare organisation received the video footage from Sky News television showing ducks suffering cruelty at Hall Farm in Hingham, Norfolk.

A statement from the RSPCA said: "This is absolutely shocking footage and the RSPCA has very serious concerns about the level of cruelty inflicted on these ducks.

"On receiving this footage from Sky, we immediately showed it to both an RSPCA farm animal welfare expert as well as a member of our legal team.

"In addition, within 24 hours of receiving this information a member of our inspectorate, alongside a representative from Trading Standards, visited the farm in question.

"We would like to thank Sky for bringing this shocking example of cruelty to our attention as soon as it obtained the information – however, it is very concerning that this covert footage of animals being subjected to serious acts of cruelty goes as far back as December 2010.

"During this period, neither the police, Trading Standards or the RSPCA were alerted to this matter.

"This means these poor animals would have been subjected to further distress and injury during this time – which may have been prevented if the relevant authorities had been notified immediately.

"It is of grave concern that the greatest chance we would have had to help these animals, as well as gather legal evidence, has now gone.

"However, we are continuing to work with all concerned to identify the individuals responsible, with a view to prosecution."

The ducks were processed by Gressingham Foods then sold by teh supermarket chain Waitrose as a high-welfare, free-range product. Waitrose immediately suspended the farm from its list of suppliers while it investigated the incident.

The RSPCA said the footage shows appalling behaviour in regards to the catchers who are seen swinging live ducks by their necks and throwing them at other ducks. This is undoubtedly a criminal offence under the Animal Welfare Act (2006), which makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring the welfare needs of their animals are met and that they are protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease.

The action of throwing live ducks is not only incredibly inhumane but would most certainly have caused suffering through pain and/or injury to the birds. Commercially reared meat ducks are flightless, heavy animals and handling them in this manner is likely to cause injury to the bird’s neck, legs and/or body.

The RSPCA added that the footage inside the barn also shows unacceptable levels of lameness and injury in the flock as well as very poor levels of management. Birds that are ill or injured should receive veterinary attention or be humanely culled without delay to prevent further suffering.

Some of the birds clearly have neck problems. While there may be a number of reasons for such problems, it is our view that these birds should certainly have received veterinary attention or have been culled without delay.

Some of the dead birds inside the shed appear to be in a state of decomposition, and should have been removed some time ago. Not only does this present a risk of disease to the living birds, but it is also indicative of a lack of even the most basic level of stockmanship duties.

Ducks, like other water fowl, are by their nature very clean animals and the birds in this footage appeared to have very dirty feathers. This would not only cause the animals discomfort but also interfere with their ability to regulate their own body temperature and keep warm. Bearing in mind this footage was shot in December 2010 and January 2011 – it would be particularly cold, the RSPCA said.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

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