THE GOVERNMENT AND DUCKS
Unfortunately, ducks, like other animals raised for food, are
excluded from the federal Animal Welfare Act. There are no standards
set by the U.S. government in terms of how these animals are housed,
fed, or treated on farms.
The federal Humane Slaughter Act of 1978 (which requires that
livestock slaughter "be carried out by only humane methods") applies
only to slaughterhouses subject to federal meat inspection and excludes
poultry (1). According to the FSIS, all duck meat is federally inspected
(2). Some states require that poultry are to be rendered unconscious
before slaughter. Concerns about this method are discussed in the
slaughter section (Part Four) of this report.
Most states allow what are considered to be accepted, common,
customary, or normal farming practices as exemptions from state
criminal anticruelty statutes (3). So as long as it is considered
a common practice, it is legal. This includes debeaking of chickens
and force-feeding of ducks (for foie gras).
The federal Twenty-Eight Hour Law of 1877, intended to protect
farmed animals during transport, was repealed and reenacted in an
amended form in 1994. This law states that animals cannot be transported
across state lines for more than 28 hours by "rail carrier, express
carrier, or common carrier (except by air or water)" without being
unloaded for at least five hours of rest, watering and feeding (4).
There is some uncertainty if this law applies to trucks (5), the
main method of transport for farmed animals. As discussed later,
some farms send ducklings through the mail. The Twenty-Eight Hour
Law of 1877 is the only ferderal law that would apply to duck welfare.
Even if other federal animal welfare laws applied to farmed
birds, they would offer very little protection as the maximum penalties
are low. Most of these laws are difficult to enforce and are under
the jurisdiction of agencies that are not knowledgeable about them,
and do not have the people power or interest to enforce them.
The U.S. government keeps very few statistics on ducks. The
FSIS keeps statistics about ducks when they arrive for slaughter.
They are broken down by those that arrive with certain diseases,
bruises, tumors and includes those that are boiled alive (6).
According to the FSIS, there are 99 establishments with approved
USDA Grant of Inspection for duck slaughter (7). In 1999, 28 of
these slaughtered almost 24 million ducks (8).
At the writing of this report, the FSIS was unable to provide
information concerning how much duck meat/eggs are imported/exported
and if the U.S. exports live ducks for food (9).
References (part three)
1. Wolfson, David J., Beyond the Law (USA, Farm
Sanctuary, 1999), 14.
2. United States Department of Agriculture,
Food Safety and Inspection Service, Consumer Education and Information,
July 1996. www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/pubs/duckgooos.htm.
3. Wolfson, Beyond the Law, 18.
4. Wolfson, Beyond the Law, 13.
5. Wolfson, Beyond the Law, 14.
6. Electronic Reading Room::ADRS, Animal Disposition
Reporting System (ADRS), Ducks Condemned Postmortem in USDA Inspected
Establishments Period: Fiscal Year 1998. www.fsis.usda.gov/ophs/adrsdata/1998adrs/pmdufy98.htm
7. Establishments with Approved USDA Grant of
Inspection for Duck Slaughter and USDA Inspected Establishments
that Slaughtered Ducks and Geese - FY 1999. Information obtained
through a FOIA to FSIS (June 2000).
8. Ducks and Geese Slaughtered in USDA Inspected
Establishments Period: FY 1999. Information obtained through a FOIA
to FSIS (June 2000).
9. Letter from FSIS regarding FOIA request,
dated June 1, 2000.