JANUARY 29 sees the start of the Chinese New Year and we wish all our Chinese residents a Happy New Year at this time, which is traditionally a time for good luck and new beginnings.

Not so lucky, however, will be the 18 million ducks that will be slaughtered in the coming year to be sold in supermarkets and restaurants as crispy duck'.

Very few of the ducks raised for the food industry these days ever live the life of the wild ducks, which give so much pleasure when seen in their natural habitat.

The factory-farmed duck will not enjoy a life of 15 years or more.

It will be genetically engineered and fed an unnatural diet to ensure it is table-ready in only seven weeks.

And probably full of antibiotics.

It will have grown so quickly that it may be crippled, because the legs have not developed sufficiently to support its body weight.

Video footage shows a huge percentage of birds to be lame and unable to stand, often dying of starvation because they are unable to reach food and water, and left to putrefy where they fall.

Not for them the joy of being able to swim and dabble, and feel the warm sun on their backs, or to fly to wherever their wings may take them.

Crispy duck is as full of fat as a deep fried Mars bar, so not too highly rated in the healthy-eating stakes.

An alternative does exist in the form of mock duck, an ancient Chinese product made from wheat protein.

Why not give it a try the next time you visit a Chinese restaurant or takeaway?

Visit www.viva.org.uk/recipes/chinese for more information.

The next time you stop to enjoy the sight of ducks on a pond or river, spare a thought for the 18,000,000 imprisoned in intensive units around Britain.

Have a care, and a Happy Chinese New Year.

G R COLBOURNE, Bartletts Common, Frogham, Fordingbridge