Christmas 2009 Day of Action for Ducks against Sainsbury's | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

Christmas 2009 Day of Action for Ducks against Sainsbury's

Thank you to everyone who took part in our Day of Action for ducks! We are getting reports in from people who took part, so watch this space for more news as we get it.

The people we have spoken to so far have said that the public was very receptive to our life-saving message. Over a hundred Sainsbury's stores were peacefully covered by caring people, by-passing the chain and speaking directly to their customers. Asking them to forgo ducks - and all meat - this Christmas - and try something kind instead by going veggie! Hundreds more door-dropped leaflets and gave them to friends and family.

The leaflets were a great hit with Christmas shoppers - with many saying how delicious the dishes on our brand new festive recipe leaflet looked.

Anne in Wakefield said she had a great response from the public - and her demo was even filmed and put on Facebook! One person in Bristol (see our demo in the Clifton area of the city to the left) asked us, "Do they really farm ducks?". She quickly realised that of course they do, but like many people she just hadn't made the connection between the duck meat sold in stores such as Sainsbury's and in Chinese restaurants. Sadly, many people still just think that ducks live on a pond with the farmer and his wife and are taken off to the market every so often. It is a pastoral lie that is perpetuated by supermarket packaging and promises of good welfare. The reality for ducks couldn't be any more different. Only Waitrose allow their ducks to swim - and that is only for a few weeks of their short seven week lives. Some sell free-range duck, but with all intensive free-range poultry production the reality of this is often a ring-fenced muddy paddocks. Certainly no compensation for the freedom of an open river.

The number of ducks being killed in the UK continues to fall - and, thanks to you, we fully expect the numbers to keep going down!

Read below a description of our investigation into Gressingham Foods - the duck meat supplier to Sainsbury's.

Gressingham Foods Investigation

All factory farmed ducklings live their short lives in industrial sheds like this one at one of Gressingham's  subsidiaries

Gressingham Foods supply Sainsbury's with duck meat* - who have previously boasted of being the biggest retailer in the UK. As you might imagine, Viva! and Gressingham Foods have a long history. We previously filmed at their units back in 1999 and 2004, when they went under the name Green Label. Since then they have bought out their nearest rivals and are now one of the biggest duck producers in Britain, and now kill around 40,000 ducks a week. Gressingham Foods also supply most of the main supermarket chains in the UK, so we decided to pay them a return visit at one of their subsidiaries to see if welfare conditions had improved.

Just a couple of weeks old and already deformed

The first thing to strike our investigators was what can only be described as an Apartheid system for ducks; with industrial units surrounded by free-range birds. Their fate dictated simply by how much consumers are willing to pay. On this first visit, the birds in the shed were young; just loosing the last of their yellow feathers. A chorus of high-pitched quacks greeted us, as they repeatedly called for a mother who would never come. Already, life in the shed was taking its toll: some birds had trouble walking; crippled at just two weeks old.

We returned to the same farm about four weeks later. The ducks were now only a few days away from being sent to the slaughterhouse - which was almost certainly the only time they would ever see the outside. Disturbingly, a numbers of birds had abnormally bent necks (which can be an indication of disease). Many of these ducks suffered from 'crusty eye', which shows that they are unable to preen sufficiently. One duck, his neck painfully contorted, struggled to drink from a bell drinker. Other ducks were evidently lame; awkwardly scrabbling across the floor. These birds - even the free-range ones - would never feel the freedom of an open river. An unforgivable insult to what are essentially wild aquatic birds.

Barely seven weeks old and this duck's neck is painfully twisted

Because of our concerns about disease, we contacted the authorities straight away. Redgrave Poultry - who are a subsidiary of Gressingham Foods - was at the centre of the H5N1 bird flu outbreak in 2007. Animal Health investigated, but said that they found no cause for concern. This doesn't come as any great surprise. Prosecutions are depressingly rare. As shocking as it is, what we filmed is the norm on Britain's intensive poultry units. Sadly, nothing really changes. We have filmed scenes like this time and time again. No matter what rough edges are sanded off, factory farming is fundamentally flawed. That is why we are invigorating our campaign to end it for good - and set Britain's favourite bird free once and for all. Please join us.

There is still time to get our leaflets out there saving lives. So, get involved!

If you have any questions, or would like to order some leaflets, please contact us on 0117 944 1000 or email or


* We do not know if ducks from the particular sheds we filmed in were sold in Sainsbury's.