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Response to Winn-Dixie’s letter

If you have contacted Winn-Dixie to protest about their sale of factory farmed duck meat, you may have received a standard reply along with their supplier’s ’Guidelines for Ducks’. The following is Viva!’s response to that reply. Please use it to write or call Winn-Dixie again - and again!

October 18, 2000

D.J. Richardson, President
1550 Jackson Ferry Rd.
Montgomery, AL 36104

Dear Mr. Richardson:

We received a letter from Monty Powers, your Vice President of Meat & Seafood Merchandising in which he also forwarded a copy of Maple Leaf Farms’ Duck Well-Being Guidelines. We appreciate your responding to us and hope you will pass this letter on to someone who deals with public opinion and your company’s reputation rather than your meat purchaser. You may be aware that McDonald’s, an international billion dollar corporation, has recently announced its policy of working with more humane suppliers. 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 policies.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that Maple Leaf Farms (MLF) guidelines do not ensure that the animals are treated humanely nor does MLF live up to its own guidelines:

Page a - MLF claims to use the most humane and prudent husbandry practices. However, factory farming ducks without water is inherently inhumane. Because of their aquatic nature, water deprivation represents a serious welfare problem for ducks. The ducks are unable to fulfill many of their natural behavioral patterns. The lack of water prevents them from being able to preen properly and makes it difficult for them to keep warm. Not being able to rinse their eyes in water can lead to opthalmia, an infection in one or both eyes often called ’sticky eye.’

Page 2, #8 -- MLF’s guidelines state that the flooring should neither harm the ducks nor cause undo stress. This statement is contradicted by Viva's undercover footage showing a bird whose wings are caught in the mesh floor. He was unable to free himself.

Page 4, #19 - MLF states that one of the conditions to which ducks should not be subjected is prolonged huddling due to under-heating. Our video shows ducks in a MLF farm who are huddled together and clearly cold.

Page 4, #20, #21 - MLF states that adequate lighting should be available for satisfactory inspection at any time. This is a smokescreen to justify keeping the birds under lighted conditions around the clock so that they eat more and grow faster. It has nothing to do with ensuring their welfare.

Page 5 - #24 MLF says that ducks should be allowed to exercise most normal patterns of behavior. MLF is ignoring their needs to swim, fly, filter water for their food, and bathe.

Again, how do you justify not allowing an aquatic bird access to water for swimming, or at the very least access to immerse their heads? Obviously, this is a central question that is not being addressed.

Page 5, #26 Wire floors - MLF gives the stocking density for how many ducks can be kept on wire floors. According to the Nutrition Management of Ducks (by Scott and Dean, Cornell University page 17) ducks kept on wire floors experience lesion of the feet and legs. ’The epidermis of the relatively smooth skin on the feet and legs of ducks is less cornified [than domestic landfowl] and therefore more susceptible to injury....abrasions, bruises and tears in the area of the hock, shank or foot pad allow the introduction of pathogenic microorganisms. Staphyococcal and streptococcal joint infection is the common result on keeping ducks on improperly designed surfaces.’

MLF also includes information on raising ducks on slatted floors. According to Dean and Scott, there is an increased incidence of leg deformities with ducklings kept on slatted floors.

All intensively reared ducks are subject to leg disorders. If you have proof that the ducks raised at MLF never suffer in this way, please send it.

Page 6, #29 - MLF guidelines mention nipple drinkers. These were documented as being used by MLF in our undercover investigation. 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 do not use water nipples 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.

Page 6, #31 - MLF states that sick, injured or ’expired’ ducks should be promptly removed. Two sheds that were documented in different states, including one at MLF headquarters, had dead ducks among the live ones. There were a few ducks who could not stand.

Page 7, #37 - MLF states that bill treatment should be carried out when it is clear that more suffering would be caused in the flock if it were not done. This implies that ’bill treatment’ causes suffering. What MLF means by ’bill treatment’ is the shortening of the upper bill (either with heat, an electric knife, or scissors) relative to the lower one, which prevents the duck from grasping feathers. Scientists have shown that the duck’s bill, including the very tip, is richly innerverated (supplied with nerves) with sensory receptors and so this procedure is ’traumatic to the bird.’ In England, the Ministry of Agriculture acknowledges that the affected ducks can suffer pain.

Again, we have mailed you a detailed report of our findings of duck farms in the U.S. as well as additional information of our investigation of ducks farms, many of which were of Maple Leaf Farms.

I have enclosed another copy of our leaflet in which a majority of the photos are from various Maple Leaf Farms and also a copy of our video.

I think you will agree from this documentation that the production of duck meat is inherently cruel and causes immense suffering for these animals. If you are still satisfied with the conditions that the ducks are kept in, could you arrange for me to visit your supplier’s units?


lauren Ornelas
U.S. Campaigns Director