Tygerpen: Lord love a duck!

Right before Chanukah, I saw a holiday catalog promoting a rubber ducky with a petite blue rubber menorah attached to its chest. And on the Web, I saw advertised rubber duckies with blue bags of gelt and dreidels. That same week — the pre-Christmas season — I saw a Nativity scene in which Mary, Joseph, three wise men, an angel, lamb, cow, donkey, camel and baby Jesus were all rubber duckies, with a tiny hole in their beaks so they could squirt water.

These are just a few examples of the continuous contempt that occurs whenever a duck is involved.

The history of duck abuse goes back centuries. We have only to look at the tragic lives of historical ducks like the Ugly Duckling, Ping and Jemima Puddle-Duck to realize ducks never had a chance.

In modern times, Walt Disney added to the offensive stereotype of ducks when he created Donald Duck with his explosive temper, acute lisp, excess saliva and semi-intelligible speech. Looney Tunes offered Daffy Duck with his slobbery lisping voice, a black fowl who was by turns greedy, selfish, vain, jealous and malicious, though otherwise a nice guy.

Chinese restaurants, the destination for people who enjoy inconsistent food, often specialize in duck. Before Chinese restaurants became popular, thanks to members of the Jewish community looking for clandestine places to sneak nonkosher food, no one had seen a duck on an American menu. These days Peking duck can even appear at Shabbat dinners where we celebrate the miracle of creation — that everything created comes from China.

Reflecting on man’s continued mistreatment of ducks, I’m loathe to eat duck at restaurants or holiday dinners. My personal resentment is based on my once owning a pet duckling, Peeper, until my mother caught me dunking him for fun and gave him away to a farm family. Apparently he became absorbed in the new family, since Mom said they had him for Easter dinner.

Once duck became acceptable on a menu, duck hunters felt vindicated. Some years ago Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his buddy Dick Cheney went out duck hunting, just three weeks after the Supreme Court agreed to review the former vice president’s appeal in several lawsuits. Faced with public criticism, Scalia responded, “But I don’t just do duck hunting. I do hunting and fishing. I also enjoy setting leg-hold traps for cute, furry animals.”

(In a related news story, a man duck hunting with his dog climbed out of his boat to move decoys, leaving his shotgun and dog behind. The dog ended up stepping on the shotgun. The hunter was blasted with 27 pellets of birdshot in the rear. The dog and a duck were being sought for questioning.)

Scalia cannot be entirely faulted for his defense of killing little animals since he attended Yale University, with its respected Department of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Petting Zoos. Yale, the alma mater of other jurisprudence greats like Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Farnum Shih Tzu, has always required its students to study animal habitats, forestry and sexuality in cheeses.

It’s bad enough ducks get shot by hunters and eaten. In recent years, parents of small children and children of small parents have been admonished not to feed breadcrumbs to ducks in the park because of alleged overpopulation, disease, death and worse.

But in truth the elimination of a fundamental American right — feeding breadcrumbs to ducks in the park — will turn ducks into emaciated, malnourished creatures, soon to be found waddling our streets, looking for handouts, homeless. Possibly occupying the front of bank buildings.

And so it goes, this heartless denunciation of and disregard for ducks. Recently even a presidential candidate slandered the American duck. At a Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney forcefully declared, “…when it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, typically it’s a duck.”

Leave it to a politician to slam another Animal-American. While it’s true ducks aren’t the most intelligent fowl, and they’re a rapacious bunch, with males jumping on females at every opportunity (“Mommy, why are they doing that? Are they playing?”), ducks have positively enriched our lives, especially when served a l’Orange.

Trudi York Gardner
is not a rabbi, rebbbetzin or spiritual leader. She’s not a Jew-by-Choice; her mother made her go 13 years to religious school and there was no choice. She lives in Walnut Creek and can reached at [email protected] or via her blog, www.tygerpen.wordpress.com.