Ducks Hardly the Only Cruelty Victims

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Ducks Hardly the Only Cruelty Victims

30 Mar 2011
Geelong Advertiser
By: JENNY MOXHAM 

LIKE Trevor Pescott (GA Perspective, 23/3), I too believe that we should consign duck hunting to history. Killing and maiming Australia’s gentle and inoffensive waterbirds is both cruel and unjustifiable.

Cruelty is routinely occurring in factory farms and slaughterhouses. But is killing and maiming millions of other Australian birds, namely chickens, any less cruel or any more justifiable?

Every year, in Australia, we kill and maim 488 million broilers for their flesh. We heartlessly breed them to grow at an abnormally rapid rate which causes them to become painfully crippled and suffer from heart failure. All are in chronic pain by the time they reach slaughter weight.

We also kill and maim 11 million battery hens. We mutilate their beaks with lasers or red-hot blades, then severely confine them in small wire cages with up to four other birds. Unable even to stretch their wings, they endure lives of misery, made worse by the feather-pecking from their frustrated and half crazed cell-mates.

In several letters published in newspapers last week writers said they were opposed to duck shooting but ate meat because these animals were ‘‘killed humanely’’.

Surely, however, the manner in which an animal is forced to live should be taken into account, too.

Farmed animals also suffer en route to the slaughterhouse. Sheep and cattle are frequently forced to endure several days on the road without food or water in the scorching heat.

Chickens sustain injuries, bruising and broken bones when they are grabbed by a leg in the middle of the night and crammed into crates for transportation. Many die from injuries, haemorrhaging and shock even before arriving at the slaughterhouse.

And is the killing process really as humane as people imagine?

Chickens are painfully hung by their ankles to a conveyor belt which carries them across an electrified water bath, thence to an automatic throat cutter and finally a scalding tank.

Birds who lift their heads and miss the electrified water bath are still conscious when their throats are cut and those who succeed in avoiding the knife as well are conscious when they enter the scalding tank.

The 12 million unwanted male chicks hatched by the egg industry each year are gruesomely dropped live into giant mincing machines or gassed on day one of their lives.

Cattle are stunned using a captive bolt but if the gun is not correctly positioned, the animal will be fully conscious when its throat is cut.

In the words of a former slaughterhouse worker: ‘‘On bad days, dozens of animals reached my station clearly alive and conscious. Some would survive as far as the tail cutter, the belly ripper, the hide puller. They die piece by piece.’’

Sheep are usually stunned using electric tongs but neurobiologist Dr Harold Hillman believes that electric stunning causes extreme pain, which he describes as torture.

The animals may remain aware but unable to move or cry out because they are paralysed by the electricity.

Carbon dioxide gas is growing in popularity as a stunning method, especially for pigs and chickens but this induces feelings of suffocation, making for a painful and frightening death.

It takes pigs up to 30 seconds to lose consciousness and during that time they will squeal, hyperventilate and try to escape.

Yes, duck shooting is cruel, unjustifiable and it should certainly be consigned to history — but let us not turn a blind eye to this equally obnoxious cruelty routinely taking place behind the closed doors of our factory farms and slaughterhouses.