ANIMAL welfare activists have launched an advertising campaign with images of sick and distressed ducks at NSW farms, targeting Sydney's Chinese community, who they claim is fuelling the demand for duck meat.
Animal Liberation wants to raise awareness that millions of the birds are suffering on Australian farms because they are routinely deprived of water to swim or bathe in, it says.
"Water deprivation is one of the most severe welfare concerns within modern farming practices because ducks are designed for a life on water," campaign manager Emma Hurst said.
"It can lead to lameness, broken bones, breast blisters, loss of their centre of gravity, and skin damage from high ammonia concentrations."
The group placed ads, in Chinese and English, on the inside of 25 buses travelling through Chinatown and George Street, on street talk signboards, and in the widely read Chinese Sydney Weekly.
One of the street talk signs is in Parramatta, outside the Prince Peking Duck Restaurant, where a row of glossy, freshly roasted ducks hang by their necks in the window.
Ms Hurst said the group, using funds from animal protection institute Voiceless, targeted the Chinese community because the Asian market accounted for 80 per cent of duck consumption.
"It's part of a broader educational strategy. Most people are completely unaware about what's happened to animal before it ended up on the plate," she said.
"People have the right to know so they can make an informed decision."
Jonathan Yee, owner of the sprawling Emperor's Garden Restaurant at the paifang entrance into Chinatown, said it was unfair to target Chinese businesses because duck was featured in many cuisines.
"The ads should be in other suburbs, because duck is not just in Chinatown. To have it where one cuisine is predominantly based, that's quite biased," he said.
Any impact on the 150-a-day sales rate of roast ducks through his Emperor restaurant and barbecue shop would be a big concern, he said.
Business has been sluggish and consumer confidence low this year.
Efforts by animal welfare campaigners to stamp out shark fin led him to cut the dish from his menus two years ago, he said.
But it was unlikely the same fate would be met by the Peking duck dish, which was hugely popular.
Mr Yee conceded he had never inquired about the welfare conditions of ducks from his supplier of 30 years.
John Houston, chief executive of Pepe's Ducks in Windsor, one of Australia's largest duck producers and supplier to Woolworths, slammed the campaign as misleading.
About three-quarters of the 90,000 ducks churned out each week at Pepe's farms are sold at Asian restaurants and butchers across Australia.
"All Pepe's Duck farms and contractors are audited and licensed by the NSW Food Authority," he said.
"Any farm not licensed would not meet our compliance, and would therefore be unable to farm ducks."
One of its clients is the grandiose China Republic restaurant on George Street, which features custom-made duck ovens built by an Australian who carried out three years of research in China. The ovens can roast 20 ducks an hour.
Mike Wang, a consultant for China Republic, said he was not against the ad campaign.
"I think animal welfare is really important, and we should make sure we're not destroying things and treating animals badly," he said.
"But it's part of many people's diet and I don't think it will affect sales."
The Haymarket Chamber of Commerce declined to comment.