Admired by parkgoers everywhere, ducks and geese are some of America’s best known and most beloved animals. Ducks and geese are comfortable in water, on land, and in the air. In their natural habitats, they fly hundreds of miles each year to migrate. Both ducks and geese fly and swim in formations that reduce air and water resistance for the birds in the rear. Ducks live in couples or groups, and pairs of geese mate for life, mourning for lengthy periods when their partners die.
Ducks and geese are raised and killed by the millions on well-hidden factory farms in order to make expensive “delicacies” for wealthy diners. Foie gras, duck meat, and goose meat bring maximum profits to the industry and maximum suffering to the tortured birds.
More than 31 million ducks are killed each year for their flesh. Animals who are meant to swim, play, and forage are deprived of all these natural behaviors when they are crammed by the thousands into dark sheds with only wire, dirt, and feces to stand on. They have only a trickle of water for drinking, so the ducks can’t clean themselves, and disease and filth spread quickly.
Because of the stressful conditions and unbearably close quarters, many ducks and geese neurotically pull out their feathers or peck at one another. To prevent this, factory farm workers cut off the birds’ sensitive upper beaks—without any painkillers. Many geese die from infection or starvation after this traumatic mutilation.
Ducks and geese on factory farms are bred to be so heavy that their legs often become deformed and crippled. They can never migrate, mate naturally, build nests, or raise their young. In fact, many ducks and geese raised for food won’t see the sun or breathe fresh air until the day they are sent to slaughter.
When they have grown large enough, these ducks and geese are thrown into crates and transported on trucks for many miles through all weather extremes to the slaughterhouse. Those who survive this journey struggle and cry out as they are hung upside-down and as their throats are cut. Some birds are still fully conscious when they are dunked into the scalding-hot water of defeathering tanks.
To produce “foie gras” (which literally means “fatty liver”), workers ram pipes down male ducks’ or geese’s throats two or three times daily and pump as much as 4 pounds of grain and fat into the animals’ stomachs, causing their livers to bloat to up to 10 times their normal size. Many birds have difficulty standing because of their engorged livers, and they may tear out their own feathers and cannibalize each other out of stress.
The birds are kept in tiny wire cages or packed into sheds. On some farms, a single worker may be expected to force-feed 500 birds three times each day. Because of this rush, animals are often treated roughly and left injured and suffering.
A PETA investigation at Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York (then called “Commonwealth Enterprises”) found that so many ducks died when their organs ruptured from overfeeding that workers who killed fewer than 50 birds per month were given a bonus. Many ducks develop foot infections, kidney necrosis, spleen damage, bruised and broken bills, and tumor-like lumps in their throats. One duck had a maggot-infested neck wound so severe that water spilled out of it when he drank.
Other investigations at Hudson Valley Foie Gras and America’s other leading foie gras producer, Sonoma Foie Gras in California, revealed that ducks were crammed into filthy, feces-ridden sheds and that others were isolated in wire cages that were so small that they could barely move. Investigators also observed barrels full of dead ducks who had choked to death or whose organs had ruptured during the traumatic force-feeding process. The investigators rescued 15 ducks, including two who were being eaten alive by rats because they could not move.
Foie gras is so inhumane that in 2004 California passed a law banning the sale and production of foie gras effective in 2012. Force-feeding has also been outlawed in the U.K.,Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway,Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and Israel.
Ducks are outgoing, social animals who feel most at ease when they’re in larger groups of other ducks, who are called paddlings. They spend their days looking for food in the grass or in shallow water, and they sleep together with their paddlings at night. Ducks are meticulously clean animals who keep their nests free of waste and debris, and they enjoy preening their feathers and flaunting their beautiful plumage for potential mates. In nature, they may live for 10 years.
Ducks are adept swimmers and fliers, and they can travel hundreds of miles each year during their migrations. Like geese, they fly in formation for protection and to reduce air resistance, and they can fly at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour!
Ducks use vocalizations and body language to communicate. Researchers at Middlesex University inBritain reported that ducks even have regional accents, just like humans! These scientists found that city ducks have more of a “shouting” quack so that other ducks can hear them above the hustle and bustle, while country ducks have softer, smoother voices.
Ducks and geese can feel pain and emotions just like your dog and cat, and just like us. They deserve the same freedom from cruelty that we show other more cuddly animals we love at home.The best way to protect these animals is to not buy down, foie gras, duck or goose meat.
Geese are very loyal. They mate for life and are very protective of their partners and offspring. If a goose’s mate or chicks become sick or injured, he or she will often refuse to leave their side, even if winter is approaching and the other geese in the group are flying south. When a goose’s mate is killed, he or she will mourn in seclusion. After a partner dies, some geese spend the rest of their lives as widows or widowers, refusing to mate again.
Geese enjoy preening their feathers, foraging for food in the grass, and collecting twigs, bark, and leaves to make “home improvements” in their nests. They lay eggs once a year in the spring, and the female incubates them for 30 days while her mate guards their well-concealed home. True to their loyal nature, geese like to use the same nest each year if possible.
A LESSON IN TEAMWORK
Multiple families of geese come together to form a larger group called a gaggle. Geese look out for others in their gaggle. If they are flying and one goose is shot, some of the other geese will lag behind to look after their injured friend.
Geese are adept fliers who may travel thousands of miles during their yearly migrations. They fly in a characteristic V shape so that the geese in front reduce the air resistance for those behind them, which helps the geese fly about 70 percent farther as a group than they could on their own. The geese rotate from the front to the back when they get tired, and those in the rear honk their encouragement to the leaders. Geese have long memories, and they use familiar landmarks and the stars to navigate during their yearly migrations.