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Response to Trader Joe's letter

If you have contacted Trader Joe's to protest about their sale of factory farmed duck meat, you may have received a standard reply from them. The following is Viva!’s response to that reply. Please use it to write or call Trader Joe's again - and again!

October 20, 2000

John Shields, CEO
Trader Joe’s
P.O. Box 3270
538 Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA 91030

Dear Mr. Shields:

Although your company has yet to address Viva! directly about our concerns over the selling of duck meat at your stores, we have received letters you have been sending to consumers. First of all, I would like to say that as a former customer of Trader Joe’s, I had always found employees to be very helpful and willing to answer questions. It is a shame that your corporate office is not run in the same manner. We had anticipated an open dialogue with you and your company.

Earth Fare, a company that sells specialty foods, has chosen to discontinue their selling of Grimaud duck meat from their stores. We hope that you will do the same.

I am dismayed that a company like yours, after visiting these farms would decide to continue to sell duck meat. Even a corporation like McDonald’s, not known for their welfare standards, has decided to do business with suppliers who are more humane and have requested that suppliers of the eggs they purchase no longer de-beak chickens. This change came about because of public opinion, and it would seem that other corporations who depend on the public for their profit and survival would be interested in pursuing similar interests.

The International Hatchery Practice Journal (IHPJ) reported in 1994 that Grimaud’s muscovy breeding ducks in France are kept in individual cages. According Grimaud of California’s website (, ’Every 18 months the farm imports 3,000 eggs from France.’ The IHPJ article goes on to say that the birds are artificially inseminated every two weeks. Article enclosed.

Did your employees visit these farms as a surprise visit?

The birds have access to water mostly in the form of nipple drinkers and a few bell drinkers. However, they do not allow water for swimming or so that the ducks can immerse their heads. How does Trader Joe’s justify this? This is a central question. As we showed in our report, this lack of water can result in blindness and other problems for the ducks.

Water nipples were devised for chickens and are not suitable for ducks - an aquatic bird that needs to drink larger amounts and to be able to use water for cleaning. Many other countries, including the UK, do not use nipple drinkers for ducks. In fact, the European Union’s Standing Committee of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Farmed Purposes in 1999 stated that water for bathing was necessary for ducks in order to fulfill their biological requirements.

Your letter also states that ducks having their bills trimmed is similar to fingernail clipping because there are no nerve endings in the tip of the bills. Where did you get this evidence? This contradicts scientific findings that ducks do indeed have nerve endings in the tip of the bill and that this procedure of ‘bill trimming’ is quite painful. We cite two scientific articles which state that the ducks do feel pain. Please see page 11 of our duck report and citations 21 - 23 for our references. These are not animal welfare groups we are quoting.

Even the UK’s Ministry of Agriculture has stated that ’affected ducks do feel pain.’

You state that the birds have the ability to roam freely. According to books on raising ducks - de-billing is a process done to prevent feather pulling which is caused by intensive confinement. If they indeed were roaming freely, they would not need to be de-billed.

Since your investigators went out to these farms they should be able to attest that the footage Viva! provides did indeed come from the farms and locations as we have stated.

Since you are satisfied with the conditions these ducks are kept in, could you please arrange a visit for me to see these farms and also provide information about the process these companies use to de-bill and slaughter these animals?

We hope to hear from you.


lauren Ornelas
US Campaigns Director