By John Di Leonardo
Every year, well-meaning people buy domestic ducks from hatcheries or live slaughter markets and release them to the wild. Not only am I vehemently opposed to their release, but I am opposed to their purchase in the first place.
A dog and cat shelter that bought puppies from a puppy mill or cats from a pet store would not be considered a rescue organization. Likewise, it does not rescue to purchase ducklings from hatcheries or spent hens from egg farms. This only puts money into the pockets of animal abusers so they can abuse more animals. “Rescue” by purchase is not only misguided but wholly unnecessary. Without buying a single animal, our organization LION directly rescues hundreds of ducks, chickens, and other animals each year. We rescue dozens by trading vegan meats for live animals during the holidays and hundreds more by rescuing them from abandonment to the wild following school hatching projects and Easter photoshoots.
Just like our companion and farmed animals, ducks and geese were domesticated by humans thousands of years ago. Selective breeding has produced animals vastly different from their wild counterparts, just like dogs and wolves. Bred for either egg or meat production, they have large bodies and small wings, rendering them flightless and unable to escape predators or find open water when ponds freeze. They lack the survival instincts of wild birds; many were raised in incubators and never learned even limited skills from their mother. When abandoned on ponds, they do not know how to forage for naturally occurring food and often starve to death. Literally “sitting ducks” they are routinely attacked and killed by predators. Most die within the first few days of being dumped. If they make it until winter, they face diminishing natural food sources and frozen ponds and cannot migrate to find water.
When introduced into nature, non-native species disrupt natural ecosystems and can spread disease to native species. Should these domestic ducks and geese breed with wild birds, their offspring will likely be flightless, exposing the young to the same dangers as their domestic parent. The National Park Service has noted that “threats from invasive species play a critical part in [the] loss of native biodiversity,” and recognizes that invasive species frequently “start out as pets.”
For these and many other reasons, fowl abandonment is a crime, punishable by a year in jail, a one-thousand dollar fine, or both in the USA. Abandoning a Muscovy duck also violates a federal order in addition to state law.
Please remember the adage “Adopt don’t shop” applies to all species and make a small vow—or Anuvrat—with me today to never buy an animal for any reason.
Community members can take further action to protect domestic and wild birds alike by reporting sightings of domestic waterfowl in public parks and waterways to www.humanelongisland.org and by contacting their legislators and urging them to support Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal’s NYS Assembly Bill 142 to end hatching projects in New York schools.
(It is a republished article. It was first published in our issue dated February 26, 2022)
John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].