CokeSpeak: "A sophisticated form of language, containing half-truths dissembled as common sense. Its objective is to deceive the listener, usually for profit".

Quack Quack

Quack Quack

Feeding junk food to wild ducks is, unsurprisingly, not a great idea.

Refined white bread is particularly damaging to almost all wildlife, so much so, that experts from the RSPB and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) have now warned the public to be mindful of how they feed the birds, advising them to swap “harmful white bread” for nutritious grains.

do not feed the ducks

Grains, seeds, vegetables and plants are best for wildlife, according to the Bakers Federation. The rest of us should make do with white bread. Alice asks: is that a ‘w’ or an ‘s’ in white bread?

How public-spirited it is, therefore, that the UK’s Baker’s Federation are heavily promoting their new ‘Don’t Feed the Ducks’ campaign, supported by celebrity dietitian Amanda Ursell, which includes sponsoring notices in public parks. Alice was surprised and delighted to learn that the Baker’s Federation was so interested in the health of our duck population and so, when ace CokeSpeak hound Deborah Colson kindly sent in a picture of their effort on Clapham Common, Alice read it carefully to see how the dangers posed to ducks of white bread consumption were explained to the public.

In short, the health risks of white bread – to ducks or anyone else – is simply not mentioned, at all.

According to the Baker’s Federation, the only danger worth a mention is simply that by feeding ducks we are depriving our own children of the myriad delights of white bread. They recommend we should give ducks all natural foods (grains, seeds, vegetables and plants), whilst exhorting us to keep back the really good stuff, the uber-refined white bread of course, for ourselves and not waste this “superfood” on mere ducks. There is even a convenient web address on the poster, where we can learn how to happily eat more and more white bread, secure in the knowledge we are helping to save our ducks.

Junk food promotion, along with free ad-space in busy public spaces, with the full support of our health and nutrition and media establishment, and all in the guise of protecting ducks. It’s undeniably quite brilliant PR, and so Alice decided to look at the Bakers Federation’s press release on the campaign. It is pretty short, and to its credit it does confess to wishing to “promote bread in daily life”, but her attention was drawn to the following passage:

  • “We know families have enjoyed feeding the ducks for generations (1) but bird charities agree (2) that bread is better kept for the family than for the ducks.(3)
Simple Classic CokeSpeak, in the raw, at last!
  1. The simple trivial and irrelevant truth followed by:
  2. The appeal to authority
  3. The outright lie – bird charities have absolutely nothing to say about families eating white bread. Why should they?

The RSPB and WWT do actually say (i):

  • White bread leaves ducks “bulked out”, undernourished and struggling to fly away from predators
  • Wildfowl become bloated and lethargic
  • They may develop a craving for the treats over normal healthy food and become reluctant to forage for nutritious natural vegetation, which they need to remain healthy and agile.
  • An animal health officer from the WWT said ducks and geese living in park ponds and lakes could become “hooked” on bread at the expense of other food.

Could not the same list of health consequences be applied to humans too?

Alice says: We would all be much healthier eating duck food…

References: (i) Daily Telegraph 30 May 2013


  1. That’s a very fine piece, Alice! You have to admire the gall of these processed food manufacturers – or rather, their PR agencies. They can put a positive spin on anything, and do so with gusto. Perhaps the best way to fight the ridiculous is with ridicule.

    • Thank you Maria!
      Fighting the ridiculous with ridicule … yes, exactly so!
      And necessarily through rather indirect means, the medieval wandering minstrels did it far better than me I’m sure.
      says Alice.


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