Sentience in Farm Animals:

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Ducks
 

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Sentience in Farm Animals main introduction

Sentience Poultry: main introduction

"The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man."


Charles Darwin

 

Interesting Facts About Ducks

All domestic ducks have descended from Mallards.

In nature, ducks can live to about  12 years of age.

Ducks vocalise about 30 different calls.

Ducks in nature are waterfowls found near bodies of water, your local pond or lake for instance.

Ducks feet do not feel cold even when they are in icy water, this is because these have no nerves and blood vessels. Ducks are indeed well adapted for the cold watery environment. Oil produced by a gland near the ducks tail makes the outer layer of feathers water proof, underneath this is a further layer of soft feathers that keeps the duck warm, it creates an airy layer of insulation, it is this layer that is much sought after for Eiderdown. Although originally from the eider duck, down from other breeds of duck and birds including geese is used, the methods of obtaining the down are cruel as the down is plucked in some cases from living birds. Animal Rights: Ducks

You often see ducks preening themselves with great frequency, they are indeed fastidious creatures and like to keep themselves and their nests clean.

Most importantly ducks like all animals are sentient, with the ability to feel pain, experience emotion, capable of compassion, intelligent and aware of themselves and their environment.

Most of us have fed ducks at a local pond or lake, it is one of the delights of childhood.  Rather like chickens many people see ducks as standardized creatures, all very much the same, like chickens ducks are considered in a stereotypical mode, the characteristic waddle and the "quack-quack" sound they use to communicate. At feeding times at local ponds many people will fail to differentiate between one duck and another. However like chickens, turkeys and geese, ducks also are individuals and are recognised as such by thier own kind, they posses their own characteristics and vary in intelligence and emotional capacity. Read these touching accounts of two ducks whom I am sure you will agree have minds of their own and are individuals capable of communication and able to form friendships with animals of other species including our own.

"Peepers was terrified of humans when he arrived last spring. Today, this young Peking duck runs up and down the barn aisle quacking out orders, and stands amidst a circle of guests demanding attention. When we tire of holding him and bend down to place him on the ground, he swiftly wraps his neck around our arms in an attempt to prevent the release. "No, I'm comfortable right here," he says.

When she could still walk comfortably, Consuela, too, would waddle up and coo, asking to be picked up. Now she sits by the radio, singing along with Brahms, Handel, and Beethoven and watching humans go about their chores. Approached by Murphy, the yellow lab, she reaches out, gently-very gently-touching his nose with her beak."

The above are accounts from the article: What the Animals Teach Us by Kathy Stevens, Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Read the full article:
What the Animals Teach Us: Kathy Stevens, Catskill Animal Sanctuary

Ducks like all animals are sentient beings with complex  behaviours which for the most part many people are not aware. Ducks do not mindlessly quack as one may think instead each tone and pitch is indicative of a variety of emotional expressions and needs which you may perceive if you make your mind open to them.

Here is a good example from Jonathan Balcombe's book Pleasurable Kingdoms. 

"Bryce Fraser, an Australian writer who has raised many ducks , claims he could compile a dictionary of thier calls: happy cheeps, sad cheeps, panicky cheeps, desperate cheeps, when-do-we-eat cheeps, where-are-you-mother cheeps, and I'm-coming-mother cheeps."  

Rather like chickens the mother duck responds to the peeps from the chicks within her unhatched eggs.

Ducks are fast learners, new born chicks are ready to swim after only a few hours of being born. If they lose their mother for any reason, they can independently travel as far as a mile to locate water. In the wild a female duck will sit on her eggs to protect them and keep them warm. The eggs hatch within 28 days.

If you are a regular visitor to your local village pond or lake you may notice that some mother ducks swim with the youngster's on thier backs the way swans do.

Ducks as most of us know can become very tame particularly in regards to the acquisition of food, they will even approach you and take from your hand.

Ducks however are capable of many things that we do not readily perceive. For example during duck hunting season ducks have been observed to seek out a safe haven in lakes on animal sanctuaries or private land where they know they are safe. They seem to have a sixth sense or perhaps they have simply worked out that at certain times of year this cruel sport commences. Such an ability demonstrates a thinking conscious being.  

The fact that ducks can be involved in meaningful relationships with other ducks and indeed creatures of other species as the accounts of ducks in an animal sanctuary above clearly demonstrates, proves that they are caring and intelligent, both of which are characteristics of sentience.

Ducks are capable of being altruistic: Altruism a selfless concern for the welfare of others is present in other animals in varying degrees as is the case for humans. Ducks are no exception. Here is a delightful account of an altruistic duck from Jefferey Masson book: The pig who Sang to the Moon.

"I heard a report of a drake who was particularly attentive to a duck, even after the mating season was over, unusual for male ducks. Dr Arthur Peterson, in DeBary Florida had a large lake on his property  and noticed this unusual behaviour. When he went over to investigate he had to slip a net over the head of the duck to examine her. it was only than that he realised that she was entirely blind! As soon as he released her her guide returned and immediately approached her, making reassuring sounds and leading her back to the lake and his constant vigil. He was a seeing-eye duck."

Such stories demonstrate that their is more to ducks than mindless instinct. Surely the above, and similar accounts many of which may be found in the above books, show us a side to ducks of which many of are unfortunately unaware.

There is nothing mindless about these remarkable creatures, did you know that flying in formation is done for a very complex reason. Ducks and also geese fly in a formation of which we are all very familiar for a very ingenious reason:

"Teamwork on the Wing

Geese and ducks both travel in large groups to ensure their safety and to assist in flight. Multiple families of geese—including mothers, fathers, children (goslings), grandparents, and in-laws—form a gaggle and migrate together.

The sight of a group of geese soaring high in the sky in a "V" formation is a familiar one, but what you may not know is why geese fly in this formation. Migrating in "V" formation makes it easier for each individual bird to fly, allowing the group to fly up to 71% farther than if each bird flew alone. In this formation, the birds play different roles depending on their positions. When the lead goose gets tired, the birds rotate so that another can take the lead. The birds flying behind honk to encourage those in front to keep up their speed.

With such a natural tendency for cooperation, these social animals have something valuable to teach us about teamwork and compassion."

Extract from The Humane Society of the United states' website

About Ducks and Geese

Such flight formations all seems very co orientated, a great example of team work, not the result of automated instinctive behaviour.

I will close with a remarkable story about a duck who summoned help from a police officer when her ducklings fell down a sewer grate.

Ducklings in Trouble, Mother Calls the Police

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - When a family of ducklings fell down a Vancouver sewer grate their mother did what any parent would do. She got help from a passing police officer.

Vancouver police officer Ray Peterson admitted he was not sure what to make of the duck that grabbed him by the pant leg while he was on foot patrol on Wednesday evening in a neighborhood near the city's downtown.

"I though it was a bit goofy, so I shoved it away," Peterson told the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

The mother duck persisted, grabbing Peterson's leg again when he tried to leave, and then waddling to a nearby sewer grate where she sat down and waited for him to follow and investigate.


"I went up to where the duck was lying and saw eight little babies in the water below," he said.

Police said they removed the heavy metal grate with the help of a tow truck and used a vegetable strainer to lift the ducklings to safety.

Mother and offspring then departed for a nearby pond.

Source: SentientBeings.org - Stories.

After reading the account above most people will be convinced or at the least consider the strong possibility that ducks like all animals are creatures with the ability to reason, make observations and act on them. Ducks it seems are intelligent, reasoning, compassionate creatures, capable of ingenuity, well organised...  surely a conscious thinking being: sentient.

Surely it is time to treat such a creature with respect instead as a commodity to provide a food source which we no longer need.


Related Internal Links:
Animal Rights: Ducks

Sentence in Farm Animals: Introduction

Credits: Photo by Wikimedia commons contributor User: Diliff  Licensed under:
 

File:Ducks in plymouth, massachusetts.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Licensed under: Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic