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Brits outraged over £300,000 "ducks like water" study

May 30, 2009 |  8:07 pm


Many Brits are fuming about a three-year, taxpayer-funded study -- to the tune of £300,000 (close to $500,000 U.S.) -- that proved nothing more, they say, than that ducks like water.

For the study, which was apparently aimed at finding out "the importance of bathing water to ducks by quantifying their motivation to gain access to water in which they can bathe," a group of ducks were given access to a pond, a water trough and a shower.  The results were twofold: First, researchers learned that ducks preferred the running water of the shower to the standing water of the pond or trough.  Second, they learned that taxpayers don't like paying £300,000 for studies about ducks.  But they tried their best to defend the project and its accompanying cost, as The Guardian reports:

[Marian Stamp Dawkins, professor of animal behaviour at Oxford] said it was unfair to portray the study as finding out simply that ducks liked water. It had been carried out to find the best way of providing water to farmed ducks because ponds quickly became dirty, unhygienic and took up a lot of water, making them environmentally questionable.

[Defra, the government department that oversees the care of farm animals] insisted that the study did go further than just establishing that rainy weather was good for ducks, arguing it was all about making sure that farmed birds were well cared for.

But many in the U.K., from politicians to taxpayers' associations to farmers' unions, don't see it that way.  "They need to get out of London and get on a farm to see how the countryside works, to put policies in place that are practical and well costed," Anthony Rew, the Devon chairman of the National Farmers' Union, told the Daily Mail of Defra officials.  "They are looking for farmers to help with costs - if they asked a farmer, he would tell them ducks like water."

Despite the public outcry, reports suggest that the duck research may even be extended -- with researchers following up on the initial study to find out how often ducks use the showers.

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Alexander Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

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