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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)."

Electrical stunning

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 cut (4).

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)

Stunner failings

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.

Boiled alive

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, January 2000.
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.
5. Ibid
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.
8. Ibid
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.
10. Ibid.
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



Report Contents

Part One

Size of the U.S. industry
Types of ducks
Intensive confinement
Bill trimming (debeaking)
Viva! ends duck debeaking in Britain
Wire flooring
Slatted floors
Food and drink
Water denied
Behavioral patterns
References (part one)


Breeding ducks

Amount of living space
Sexual patterns
Forced molting
Duck eggs
Parent stock
References (part two)


The Government and ducks

The legal position
References (part three)



Electrical stunning
Stunner failings
Boiled alive
References (part four)


Disease patterns

Medicated feeds
Global diseases
Diseases of intensification
References (part five)


Duck suppliers

Maple Leaf Farms
Grimaud Farms
Metzer Farms
Culver Duck
Some of the Major supermarkets stocking duck meat
References (part six)


Global resources

References (part seven)