The Australian duck farming industry is dominated by two intensive producers: Pepe's Ducks PTY LTD, who boast a kill rate of 70,000 ducks per week, and Luv-a-Duck PTY LTD, who claim around 100,000 deaths per week(1)(2)(3). Pepe's Ducks operates production farms in New South Wales, while Luv-a-Duck is based in Victoria(2)(4). In 2011, Luv-a-Duck had a turnover of $AU60 million(3). Overall the industry is worth well over $AU100 million, and the Poultry Hub website states that the industry is expanding at a rate of more than 5% each year(1).
The inhumane living conditions for commercially farmed chickens have been well documented in Australia, but the public is generally less aware of the plight of commercially farmed ducks. The duck industry adopts very similar animal husbandry practices to the chicken industry(5). That is, ducks are generally reared intensively inside large, closed sheds with limited natural lighting, little space, and compromised health and welfare(5).
Total confinement systems (intensive systems) are the most common housing systems for ducks(6). Ducks are packed into closed sheds according to a formula which allows one square metre of floor space for up to five fully grown birds, or 50 ducklings(7). The birds share the same living shed with numerous other ducks(7). Ducks held in total confinement systems are denied any access to outside space for roaming or socialising, and to surface water for bathing, floating, or swimming(6).
Partial confinement systems (free range), are uncommon systems for duck farming in Australia and vary greatly in their conditions and the welfare of the ducks(6). Ducks are again kept inside sheds often with many other ducks, but in partial confinement systems ducks are also given limited access to an outside area(8). Very few free range duck systems are accredited in Australia(9). Partial confinement systems also regularly deprive ducks of any surface water for swimming.