PUBLISHED ON: 10 September 2014
When the photographer Tamara Kenneally first walked into a crowded shed on a duck farm in Victoria, hundreds of ducklings fled from her in terror. They scrambled over each other in an attempt to find safety — but there is no escape from the dry and barren sheds most farmed ducks must call home for their entire lives. Lives that are cut tragically short when they're only 6 to 9 weeks old.
Scroll for the before and after: Tamara's rescued ducklings — from a dry and barren shed, to a pool of their very own.
We can't be certain what experiences the ducklings in this cramped farm shed had to make them so terrified of humans, but when Tamara sat down on the filthy ground, and spoke softly and calmly to them, they responded to her gentleness with a natural curiosity and began a tentative approach...
Here was a human who wasn't going to hurt them. Instead, she fed them treats, and stroked their feathers gently.
When we think of ducklings, most of us will picture soft little balls of playful yellow fluff. But the ducklings in intensive farms aren't provided with the pools or troughs of water that are essential to their cleanliness, health and happiness.
Because it's not just about looking pretty! Ducks require plenty of fresh water to swim and clean themselves in, otherwise they become highly susceptible to a range of debilitating infections and diseases. In intensive farms, where the only access to water is through tiny drip feeders, ducklings' downy feathers quickly become covered in a layer of excrement that traps in the heat and can send their temperatures skyrocketing into a fever zone.
Intense overcrowding almost invariably leads to behavioural issues, stress and the easy transmission of infectious diseases.
While many of the ducklings waddled over to see her, Tamara noticed that a few kept their distance. Looking closer, she realised some were trapped in mounds of faeces, while others were so crippled they couldn't walk. Lamness is yet another tragic side-effect of not having enough to water to swim in — because ducks are aquatic animals, being raised in dry sheds and forced to walk on rough dirt or wire flooring wreaks havoc on their tender webbed feet. Not being able to buoy themselves in water also puts tremendous pressure on their weak leg joints, which can become dislocated — resulting in death due to starvation as they can't reach feeding bowls.
This duckling was trapped in a pile of faeces. Above him are the tiny drippers that provide the only source of water for these aquatic animals.
Tamara rescued three of the worst afflicted ducklings, but she couldn't save them all. These three lucky little ducklings' brothers and sisters have all been shipped off to the slaughterhouse now — never having known what it's like to swim, see sunlight, or play in the grass.
What you can do
Every year in Australia, over 8 million ducklings are kept in farms just like this one. You might not be able to save them all — but, like Tamara, you can give hope to a few of them. Here's how:
- Learn more about the plight of intensively farmed ducks — being informed is the first step to making a positive difference!
- Asian supermarkets usually stock a huge array of mock-duck products in their fridge or freezer sections — so try out some cruelty-free recipes today!
- Share the facts below with your friends and family, and let them know that ducks are incredible creatures who deserve so much more than a short life in a filthy farm shed.
Amazing duck facts!
- Ducks have distinct muscles in their skin that they use to control their feathers. By fluffing them up or holding them close in various ways they can regulate their temperate by fractions of degrees, make themselves sleek to dive underwater — and even express emotions such as anger or affection!
- Because ducks' eyes are located on the sides of their head (not pointing forwards like humans) they have a field of vision that encompasses almost 340 degrees. Which means they can see nearly everything in front of them, beside them — and even behind them! And, because their eyes are shaped like saucers, they have an incredible depth of focus that allows them to focus on close and distant objects at the same time.
- Ducks in commercial breeding facilities are generally slaughtered at around 6 weeks of age — but these remarkable birds can live for years, if not decades. Indeed, the oldest know duck encountered so far was a canvasback believed to be 29 years old!