United Poultry Concerns November 6, 2000

Please write to Trader Joe's at the address below (phone No: 626-441-1177) to express your concerns about the company's sale of duck meat. The organization Viva! has prepared informative materials on duck factory farming including a full-color brochure and a full-length report on duck factory farming in the United States and the United Kingdom. For more information or to order their materials, email: (Tel: 404-315-8881). Viva! Is a nonprofit organization. All contributions are tax-deductible. Their website is

Below is UPC's letter to Trader Joe's

November 6, 2000

John Shields, CEO
Trader Joe's Company
PO Box 3270
South Pasadena, CA 91030

Dear Mr. Shields:

On behalf of our 10,000 members nationwide, I am writing to you concerning your sale of duck meat. Our office has received copies of your letter to people who have written to you expressing their concerns. Could you please tell me whether your company's visits, on September 27 and September 28, to Grimaud Farms and Maple Leaf Farms, were prearranged, and whether the facilities they saw contained breeding stock or commercial flocks?

In your letter you say that the ducks observed by your company's representatives have "sufficient space and easily accessible food and water." Could you please define these things more specifically?

Concerning the water, for example, in what kind of a device is the water contained, how many ducks are accommodated by it, and what can the ducks do with the water besides ingest enough to prevent dehydration?

You state in your letter that bill trimming is "similar to fingernail clipping. There are no nerve endings in the tip of the bill." Please be aware that the question of whether the beaks and bills of birds contain nerve endings to the tip has long been settled. Beak trimming (debeaking) was fully explored by the Brambell Committee, a group of veterinarians and other experts appointed by the British Parliament in the early 1960s, to investigate animal welfare concerns arising from intensive farming. The Committee wrote in 1965: "There is no physiological basis for the assertion that the operation [of beak trimming] is similar to the clipping of human finger nails. Between the horn and bone [of the beak] is a thin layer of highly sensitive soft tissue, resembling the quick of the human nail. The hot knife blade used in debeaking cuts through this complex horn, bone and sensitive tissue causing severe pain."

I am enclosing a fact sheet about the debeaking of birds, which explains the pain and suffering caused by this operation. Birds do not only ingest food through their beaks and bills. They find food with them (among many other things). The beak does for birds, such as ducks, what our hands do for us: it enables them to explore and grasp things. The beak is for them a fundamental way of knowing what is out there. It is therefore a very delicate and complex organ. It used to be asserted that fish had no nerve endings in their mouths, but this is now known to be physiologically incorrect as well as incompatible with the fact that fish, like birds, use their mouths to explore and negotiate their environment. Let me assure you, Mr. Shields, that if ducks are bill-trimmed to "protect them" from one another, the problem lies in two things: overcrowding and a lack of things to do with their time. And by things to do, I mean things that are meaningful to ducks, that distinguish and define them as a particular evolved form of sentient life. If ducks picked and pecked at each other in nature the way they can be driven to do in confinement, they would have become extinct long ago.

I respectfully urge you, Mr. Shields, to take a second look at the duck issue. It is inappropriate for you to assert, in any case, that bill trimming is comparable to finger nail trimming. It is not.

Please respond to my initial question about the water provided to the ducks that your company representatives reportedly saw and what exact uses the ducks were able to make of it besides ingesting enough to avoid dying of thirst. My other immediate questions are whether the ducks they saw were breeding flocks or commercial progeny, and whether the visits you mentioned were scheduled or unannounced.

Thank you very much for your attention, Mr. Shields. I look forward to a response from you as soon as possible.


Karen Davis, PhD President

United Poultry Concerns. November 6, 2000

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(Action Alert - Trader Joe's Selling Duck Meat)