There is no legal requirement to give ducks bred for meat full body access to open water and the RSPCA believes this is one of the biggest welfare concerns facing duck farming today. The vast majority of farmed ducks only have access to water that just allows them to dip their heads in.

A poll by RSPCA Assured has revealed that 88% of people think farmed ducks should have access to water they can fully get into.

By law farmed ducks do not have to be given anything other than drinking water which could be from a metal ball bearing drinker, similar to those used by pet hamsters.

According to RSPCA senior scientific officer, Sophie Elwes, this is very concerning as giving ducks adequate water is essential for them to carry out their natural behaviours and maintain health:

“Put simply, as waterfowl, ducks need a life in and around water and just as the wild ducks we see on ponds and rivers need to splash, preen and immerse themselves in water to keep clean and healthy, so do farmed ducks," said Ms Elwes.

“Duck meat is often considered to be a luxury product and most people, understandably, probably assume the birds will have been farmed to high welfare standards with full body access to water. But in most cases this couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The duck meat industry has developed its own assurance scheme standards for ducks which cover some important areas. However, the RSPCA believes they don’t go far enough and fail to address ducks’ innate need to have full-body access to bathing water.

Ms Elwes continued: “Currently there are no duck producers farming under the RSPCA Assured label which insists ducks are given full body access to water. And sadly most farmed ducks are only given enough water to be able to dip their heads in, which just isn’t good enough for their welfare.”

In response to this issue the RSPCA is calling on people to put pressure on their local supermarkets to source duck that has been given adequate open water facilities, as required by the RSPCA Assured scheme.

Around 14.3 million ducks were reared for meat in the UK during 2012 (FAOSTATS, 2014), making them the third most numerous animal reared for meat.

The RSPCA has other concerns about the welfare of ducks farmed for meat. There are no specific legal requirements for ducks and therefore, by law ducks do not have to have bedding such as straw, they do not have to have natural daylight, they can have having their beaks trimmed and there is no limit on the number of ducks than can be placed within a building.