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What are the animal welfare issues with duck farming?

There is a relatively small duck farming industry in Australia producing around 8 million ducks per year. Ducks are farmed for their meat, their eggs and their feathers. The majority of ducks are kept indoors on the floor (not in cages) in sheds where they are provided with feed and water. Ducks reach slaughter weight at around 6-7 weeks of age.

The practice of farming ducks (or geese) for down production which sees the collection (plucking) of feathers from live birds is practiced overseas. Live plucking is a serious animal welfare concern and consumers of down products (e.g. doonas or down jackets) are strongly encouraged to verify the method of down collection to ensure it is done post slaughter.

The RSPCA believes that all duck farming systems must provide ducks with: sufficient space to move around freely, enough food and water to avoid competition, clean and dry litter for comfortable resting, adequate lighting, good ventilation, access to water facilities to carry out their natural water-related behaviours, and, where birds have access to the outdoors, shade and shelter to encourage birds to access the range.

Lack of access to open water is a key welfare issue in duck production. Ducks use water to preen themselves but also to clean their eyes and nostrils. Provision of nipple drinkers as the only water source is inadequate for meeting these needs.

The RSPCA believes that water facilities must be provided in such a way that they meet the needs of the ducks to preen and clean, while not posing a human food safety or animal biosecurity risk.

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Updated on May 1, 2019
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