Following undercover investigations inside Gressingham Foods’ farms and abattoir, Animal Justice Project has returned to expose the sadistic process that ducks face as they are rounded up and crated for slaughter. As featured in the Independent.
This is The Foul Truth about the UK’s commercial duck ‘meat’ farms.
As consumers tuck into their crispy duck pancakes or roast duck dinners, the violence behind their food choices is being hidden away in huge concrete sheds, only ever coming to light when investigations expose the nightmarish reality. Sold in the ‘Big 6’ supermarkets – Asda, Co-op, Waitrose, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – you will never see the truth on their packaged bodies.
At this Gressingham Foods farm in West Yorkshire, we witnessed numerous sick and injured ducks and the dead left to rot amongst the living. Our cameras caught the sadistic process of catching the ducks for slaughter; birds were grabbed by their necks and strangled, thrown around to scare others, kicked, crushed below a worker’s boots and much worse.
The vast sheds imprisoned 10,000 birds, yet there was not a single source of open water. To these semi-aquatic birds, water is vital for their health and well-being and enables them to display their natural behaviours. It is in direct contradiction with the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to not allow animals to carry out these behaviours, and a tragically cruel thing to do.
Gressingham, a so-called “local boys and a family business”, is industrial in size. Each duck becomes a mere statistic in this gross exploitative system and not an individual who has needs. We witnessed eye and nasal infections, blindness, severe lameness, twisted feet and bent necks. Most of these painful ailments can be directly reflected by the lack of open water, leaving the ducks unable to bathe and wash their eyes and nasal passages efficiently.
In just 42 days, 920 ducks died or were killed inside a single shed. That’s almost 10% of the flock.
Commercial duck breeds like the ‘Gressingham duck’ are bred to fatten so quickly that their bodies struggle to keep up; they are the ‘broiler’ equivalent of chickens. They grow unnaturally wide, so when their legs fail, or they are knocked over by the crowds of panicked ducks, they become trapped on their backs and cannot right themselves.
We filmed one duck trapped on their back for 20 hours, struggling to right themselves, becoming increasingly desperate. It was only after almost a whole day when a worker booted them back over when they could struggle away, collapsing again, clearly in shock.
Specialist catching team Keyo, a company that prides itself on being the ‘largest poultry handling firm in the UK,’ was brought in to carry out the nightmarish process of depopulation. Keyo is both Red Tractor and RSPCA Assured. What we filmed was nothing short of a terror show.
As the time came to round up the ducks for slaughter, widespread panic set in amongst the flock. Workers grabbed ducks by their necks and swung them around to scare the other birds into moving forward into the loading area. It was horrifying to witness sentient, vulnerable individuals being strangled for almost a minute as they flapped and kicked around in an attempt to free themselves. Workers subsequently hurled the panicked ducks to the floor.
Catchers aggressively caught several ducks by their necks in each hand before slamming them into plastic crates as they loaded them for slaughter. Wings, heads and legs became trapped as crates were filled with terror-stricken birds who urgently tried to escape. One duck became trapped under other birds and, subsequently, a worker’s boot. They tried their best to escape but became weaker and weaker in the commotion. After the painful ordeal, the duck was tossed to one side as they collapsed on the ground. They were left to slowly die in agony.
The entire catching process reflected no regard for the ducks' well-being and only focused on efficiency and getting the job done.
After many hours of torment, any birds who were injured during the catching process, or those who were sick, were tossed to one side until the depopulation had finished. A worker was caught on camera grabbing birds by their necks and spinning the ducks around to callously break their necks. As the vicious attack ended, the ducks were thrown to the ground, flapping and writhing in pain for as long as three minutes. The now emptied shed became littered with the bodies of those ducks who meant nothing to Gressingham now that they could not provide any financial gain.
The 9,000 birds who were shoved into crates then endured an arduous 180-mile journey to Gressingham’s slaughterhouse in Suffolk, where they would enter an electrified water bath – their first ever contact with an open water source – before having their throats slit as a method of ‘humane’ slaughter.
“Numerous distressing instances included the forceful closure of crate doors on ducks' heads, wings, and limbs, as well as ducks being swung by their necks and suspended for extended periods. Some exhibited severe lameness indicative of fractures, struggling to right themselves. Injured ducks were callously thrown aside during handling, and on-site killing methods were unreliable, leading to prolonged suffering.” Andrew Knight, Veterinary Professor of Animal Welfare
When Animal Justice Project began investigating the duck industry in 2019, 15 million ducks were slaughtered annually. Today, 9 million ducks are killed in the UK. Duck farming is declining, and we must only stop campaigning once we see this industry ceasing to exist.
This is the cold-hearted reality of the commercial duck ‘meat’ industry. Profits and efficiency prevailed over the care or well-being of the vulnerable, young birds. As consumers, we must stop buying these ‘products’ of abuse off supermarket shelves and instead opt for plant-based foods, which offer everyone a just and respectful future. Go vegan for duck’s sake!
You can sign our petition today to ask the ‘Big 6’ supermarkets to stop selling the abused bodies of Gressingham’s ducks and send our open letter to Steve Barclay to ask him to ban duck farming, which innately contradicts the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
For the animals.