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Poultry Digital - July 2018

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A fairer prospect for waterfowl: a progress report on three top issues FEATURE D ucks and geese are raised for meat and egg production in many countries, and the most significant current welfare issues include the plucking of feathers from live birds, force-feeding practices related to foie gras production and a lack of full-body access to water for the expression of normal behaviours such as swimming. Sophie Elwes, senior scientific officer at the RSPCA in the UK, notes that it's difficult to say which is of the greatest concern, both in Europe and globally. "The two aspects are the severity of the suffering, from forced feeding to behaviour frustration, from the very cruel down to poor welfare," she notes. "And then you have the scale of the suffering. There are not many countries that have foie gras production, and live plucking happens in Hungary and Poland and China, but full-body access to water I would say is not something that is provided except on small free-range operations. Consumers aren't generally aware that ducks raised for slaughter don't have access to water for swimming." Dr Sara Shields, behaviour and welfare specialist for farm animals at Humane Society International, notes that while there has been progress addressing the live plucking and force-feeding issues, the problem of access to water has received less attention. "The science is very clear that ducks and geese, being waterfowl, require access to an open water source," she notes, "to meet their behavioural needs." In 2008, the RSPCA commissioned University of Cambridge scientists to examine what facility design best enables ducks to carry out normal water-related behaviours. Updated RSPCA welfare standards were published in 2015, but Elwes says these have not been adopted. She notes that one company now owns all major duck production in the UK, and Elwes says there is no indication that this company is going to make changes. A fairer prospect for waterfowl A progress report on three top issues Words Treena Hein "The science is very clear that ducks and geese, being waterfowl, require access to an open water source" 12 12

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