Bad eggs: curbing the spread of cruel cage systems for egg-laying ducks

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As Mid-Autumn Festival approaches many in Chinese communities yearn for the familiar taste of mooncakes filled with salted egg yolks, leading to an annual spike in the price of duck eggs.

The domestic duck egg industry contributes more than NTD $1.7 billion a year to the  economy in Taiwan, with the prized Brown Tsaiya duck famed for its world-leading egg laying rate. But a recent phenomenon has seen unscrupulous producers confine these water-loving animals to tiny, barren cages without access to water, causing unknowing consumers to unwittingly support this inexcusable cruelty.   

The Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) today held a press conference to publish findings of an investigation into Taiwan’s cage laying duck farms. An estimated 20% of Taiwan’s 2.16 million laying ducks live their lives in the cramped confines of metal battery cages. EAST calls on the government to halt the spread of cruel cage systems and assist the few farms using cage systems to transition to cage-free systems.  

Photo credit / We Animals


Ducks out of water

Ducks are sensitive creatures who depend on water to maintain their eye, bill, and foot health, and to keep their plumage in good condition. On cage duck egg farms, sheds are stacked with metal wire cages around the size of an A4 sheet of paper, with 2-3 ducks crammed into each cage. The dry conditions and rusty wire floors lead to abrasions and  wounds on the ducks' feet, while the accumulation of feces and urine attracts a constant stream of flies.

The prolonged suffering and distress of life in a cage causes ducks to exhibit abnormal stereotypic behaviors. Our investigators observed ducks with clumped and dirty feathers engaging in repetitive head bobbing, indicating frustration with their inability to groom their plumage. Many of the caged ducks also had visible red sores. Tellingly, the mortality rate of ducks on cage laying farms is two to five times higher than that of cage-free systems equipped with water troughs and nesting boxes, illustrating the inadequacy of cage systems.


Photo credit / We Animals




In nature ducks spend as much as half of their waking hours in the water. Their unique physiology reveals astonishing adaptions that allow these animals to flourish in aquatic environments. Ducks' webbed feet have evolved to propel them forward, while their flat, wide chests enhance their ability to remain afloat. Incredibly, ducks also have glands that secrete oils that they then spread across their plumage, allowing them to swim without their feathers becoming wet and heavy.

In addition, ducks depend on water to regulate their body temperature. This is of particular importance in Taiwan's hot climate, where even barn systems must have their stocking densities adjusted to counter the extreme temperatures.

Yu-Min Chen, deputy chief executive of EAST, exclaimed "Caging egg-laying ducks inflicts inexcusable torment on these water-loving animals. Taiwan is home to countless cage-free duck egg farms that meet the needs of animals, disease prevention, and environmental sustainability. Convenience of husbandry and pursuit of personal profit is no excuse for blatant of animal cruelty."


Photo credit / We Animals


Photo credit / We Animals


When ducks suffer, consumers do too

RSPCA UK's duck welfare standards stipulate that all domesticated ducks must have access to two or more sources of open water in addition to drinking water supplies, ensuring ducks can readily engage in natural grooming behaviors. A myriad of scientific studies reaffirm the importance of access to open water, showing that ducks will use open water to wet preen, immerse their heads, preen their wings, shake water through their feathers, and engage in other instinctive behaviors. Research by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reveals that when ducks do not have water to clean their eyes and bills there is a higher risk of infection. 

When eggs are laid by ducks in such living in such sickly conditions, consumers suffer too.



Act urgently to halt the spread of cage laying duck farms

The Brown Tsaiya duck was originally bred by the Yilan branch of the Council of Agriculture's Livestock Research Institute. The Institute was established in 1968 and has long invested in duck welfare research. However, its research has been repeatedly overlooked by the Council of Agriculture, who has failed to implement policy measures to protect Taiwan's treasured Brown Tsaiya ducks.

In recent years Taiwan's duck egg industry has witnessed technological advancements and an expansion of exports. These achievements should not be undermined by backsliding on animal welfare, as the rest of the world moves to improve the treatment of farmed animals and abolish the use of cruel cages.

EAST demands that Taiwan's government ban the cage confinement of laying ducks, set guidelines for duck welfare, and implement improvement measures to lift industry competitiveness and protect Taiwan's international image.




Media pack:

Media contact:
Yu-Min Chen, Deputy Executive of EAST
0910150908 / 22369735


RSPCA welfare standards for domestic/common ducks

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