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
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