Abstract intelligence describes the ability of a brain to understand general ideas or concepts, such as ‘same’ or ‘different’ in contrasting colours and shapes. It is typically contrasted with concrete and social intelligence and can be considered a measure of creativity.

This form of thinking is present in humans, apes, dogs, and bears, but also, and more surprisingly, in geese and ducks. Following hatching, a short and critical period of 13-16 hours exists in which the duckling or gosling imprints upon the first larger individual present and identifies them as ‘mother’ (whether biological or adoptive: such as the human rearing them).

Idioms such as ‘bird brain’ may suggest that all birds have a low level of intelligence, but this is incorrect. Imprinting is an advanced behaviour in which the duckling or gosling ‘knows’ that its subject is its parent: it understands that it is part of the same species. Therefore, a person raising ducks or geese should promote imprinting on adults of the hatchling’s own species, as opposed to on humans.

However, this behaviour can also be utilised for the purpose of conservation, such as in this video.

To allow a hatchling to purposefully imprint upon a person allows said person to act as the hatchling’s caregiver.

If the purpose of this conservation is to allow re-wilding of the species, then an additional measure must be taken: the caregiver impersonates a member of the hatchling’s species. This can be done by feeding the hatchlings from your dressed-up hand, or by using a microlight to take it as far as teaching them their natural migration route video.

Many would argue that a duck’s or goose’s ability to bond to a person so completely would make them a human’s most natural companion animal – more so than cats and dogs, even. So why do we subject them to the cruelty of farming?

Ducks and geese are farmed for their eggs, their meat, and their livers. The production of foie gras (‘fatty liver’ as translated from French) is a topic of great controversy due to its barbaric nature. Ducks and geese are fattened by gavage – this involves force feeding the individual two to three times a day over a month before slaughtering them.

While this practice has been banned in the UK on grounds of cruelty, it is still imported under the EU free-market rules. This allows it to continue being marketed as a luxury item, despite the well documented cruelty involved.

Here at Open Cages we understand that ducks and geese are fascinating animals with every right to a comfortable life, so are campaigning against the importation of foie gras. If you agree that an end must be put to this inhumane practice, please sign our petition.