Different books encourage various methods for small flocks.
Some of these include:
"hanging the duck on a shackle, then
cut the throat on the left side at the base of the beak, severing
the left jugular vein and carotid artery" (1)
"starve a duck for at least six hours
before killing it, but do not restrict water. To kill, cut the duck's
throat in the soft spot where the head joins the neck (2)."
For commercial or larger flocks, electrical stunning is used.
Just like other birds in food production, ducks are not required
by federal law to be stunned before slaughter (3). In fact in 1991,
over 1 million ducks were not stunned before having their throats
In 1991, approximately 15 million ducks in the U.S. were electrically
stunned (5). In the processing plant, the ducks are shackled, fully
conscious, hung upside down onto a conveyor. Then they are stunned.
Next their throats are cut and they are bled and then scalded to
remove the feathers.
Scalding is carried out at temperatures of 135-145°F. From
there the dead animals are moved to a mechanical device that plucks
off their feathers. They are then dipped in one or more baths of
melted paraffin wax followed by the submersion in cold water to
harden the wax. The wax is then removed either by hand or mechanically
to remove the fine pinfeathers. The giblets are usually wrapped
in plastic film and stuffed inside the body. The duck's feet are
usually packaged and shipped to Hong Kong (where they are considered
a delicacy) (6)
How effective is electrical stunning? Little attention has ever
been paid to ducks' suffering at slaughter. Research at Bristol
University's Dept. of Meat Animal Science found that ducks were
less susceptible to a ventricular fibrillation (stopping of the
heartbeat) than either chickens or turkeys. They also determined
that a stunning current of 250 milliamperes was necessary to induce
a ventricular fibrillation in 99 per cent of the birds. (7) However,
many slaughterhouses stun the birds with a much lower current, thus
failing to render them unconscious. (In the US, poultry plants still
cling to the industry myth that a dead animal won't bleed properly.
In the case of chickens, the stunning current is kept down to about
one-tenth of that needed to render the bird unconscious. (12)
For an effective stun it is imperative that a bird's head is
immersed in an electrically charged water bath. However, ducks are
known to 'swan neck' - raise their heads when entering the waterbath,
thus avoiding full immersion. The Bristol researchers believe that
if only the crop and bill are immersed, it will be less effective
in disturbing brain function than if the whole head had been immersed.
They concluded that incomplete immersion is generally less effective
at stunning than whole head immersion (8).
Surveys of poultry processing plants in North America show that
frequently a proper stun is not achieved (9). However, even when
a proper stun is achieve and the bird is rendered unconscious, it
is possible that the shock is an "intensely painful experience (10)."
Any ducks not rendered unconscious by the stun, or who regain
consciousness, will feel the pain and terror of having their throats
cut and bleeding to death.
According to the FSIS, in 1998 almost 6,000 ducks were either
improperly cut, bled, or even breathing when they were submerged
in the scalding water to be defeathered (11).
References (part four)
1. Adams, A.W., Cooperative Extension Service,
Kansas State University, August 1989.
2. University of California Cooperative Extension,
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Publication 2980,
3. California Animal Laws Handbook, U.S. Code,
Title 7: Agriculture, Chapter 48: Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter
(State Humane Association of California: 1997), 267.
4. Heath G, Thaler A, James W. "A survey of
stunning methods currently used during slaughter of poultry in commercial
poultry plants." J Appl Poultry Res 1994(3):297-302.
6. Scott and Dean, Nutrition and Management
of Ducks, 31, 32.
7. Effect of Stunning Current on downgrading
in Ducks, Gregory N. G. and Wilkins, I. J. British Poultry Science,
1990, 31, 429-431.
9. Boyd F. "Humane slaughter of poultry: the
case against the use of electrical stunning devices" Journal of
Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 1994;7(2):221-236.
11. United States Department of Agriculture,
Food Safety and Inspection Service, Consumer Education and Information,
July 1996. www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/pubs/duckgooos.htm.
12. Eisnitz, G.A., Slaughterhouse (Amherst,
NY: Prometheus Books), 1997, 166