A fowl irony – RSPCA launches report as new survey shows public are unaware of welfare issues facing UK ducks

Affluent families are the most likely to enjoy a bit of duck for dinner, 78% of UK adults are ‘appalled’ that ducks farmed for their meat may never get access to bathing water – as a new YouGov survey highlights that fact consumers are often unaware of the conditions in which the nations favourite waterfowl live on farms.

According to a recent YouGov poll commissioned by the RSPCA, 41 per cent of people said they considered ducks to be their favourite waterfowl – making it the country’s most loved water bird – yet only around half that amount (21%) said they have ever thought about how they are reared for meat in the UK.

There are no legal requirements to provide farmed ducks with anything other than water to drink, and the duck industry’s own standards (Red Tractor) only require ducks to be able to cover their heads with water.

As Dr Marc Cooper, RSPCA's duck welfare expert explains, "Ducks are waterfowl, therefore they should be provided with water that allows them full body access. This is not only good for their health, as it helps keep their eyes, nostrils and feathers clean, but it also allows them to do the things they naturally want to do,”

That is why the RSPCA has launched a new report, Watertight: the case for providing farmed ducks with full body access to water. To read the report, please go to: www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/farm/ducks

“It is disheartening that we are in a situation where the vast majority of farmed ducks are not provided with full body access to water. We want consumers to know the facts about how farmed ducks have been reared, and we want the industry to take on board the evidence within the report and help improve the lives of millions of ducks,” Dr Cooper added

In an interesting contrast, the survey showed nearly two-fifths (39 per cent) of people say they take children to a local pond or lake to feed the ducks, yet the vast majority (93 per cent) were unaware that unlike those they see in the wild, it is not a legal requirement for farmed ducks to have bathing water they can get into on a farm.

Further findings from the survey include:

?      Only 21% of people say they had ever thought about how they are reared for meat

?       78% * said they ‘agree’ that they are appalled that ducks farmed for their meat may never get access to bathing water.

Notes to editors

The RSPCA defines bathing water as an open water source that allows full body access.

In 2012 around 14.3 million duck were farmed in the UK, making them the third most farmed animal for meat in the UK.

There are no producers in the UK farming to RSPCA Welfare Standards and approved by Freedom Food. It is very difficult for consumers to find any meat from ducks reared to welfare standards the RSPCA would find acceptable. So unless they can be confident that this is the case, they are strongly encourage to avoid buying duck meat due to welfare concerns associated with poorer rearing conditions.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,141 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th – 17th February 2015.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

For full survey results, please contact RSPCA press office on 0300 123 0244.