A European Council Directive states:
“No animal shall be provided with food or liquid in a manner…
which may cause unnecessary suffering or injury”
Foie gras is a French term meaning ‘fatty liver’. It is produced by force-feeding birds (geese and ducks) excessive amounts of high-protein food, usually corn. The common method used to feed the caged or penned birds is by means of a 12 to 16-inch plastic or metal tube, shoved down their throats and attached to a pressurized pump. The force-feeding is typically performed twice daily for up to two weeks for ducks and three to four times daily for up to four weeks for geese.
A Change of Heart
The force-feeding causes the birds’ livers to swell to up to ten times their normal size. Many birds have difficulty standing because their engorged livers distend their abdomens, and they may tear out their own feathers and attack each other out of stress.
The birds, who in their natural habitat will spend most of their time in and around water, have no access to open water. Their entire lives are spent in close confinement, thus they cannot exercise or express their natural behavioural instincts. Unable to bathe or groom themselves, they become coated with excrement mixed with the oils that would normally protect their feathers from water.
Health problems include lameness due to foot infections as a result of standing on metal grilles during the gavage (French term for the force-feeding practice); oesophagus damage; fungal infections; diarrhoea; impaired liver function; heat stress; lesions; and fractures of the sternum. Some ducks die of aspiration pneumonia, which occurs when grain is forced into the ducks’ lungs or when birds choke on their own vomit.
Since foie gras is made from the livers of only male ducks, all female ducklings – forty million of them each year in France alone – are useless to the industry and are tossed into grinders while they’re alive, so that their bodies can be processed into fertilizer or cat food.
As of 2016, only five European countries still produce fois gras: Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Hungary and Spain. Many countries have banned the practice. However, foie gras can still be imported into and purchased in all EU states. In 2012, eight members of the European Parliament called for foie gras to be banned across Europe.
Force-feeding animals is against the law in many countries, including Israel, Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom.
The state of California has banned the production of fois gras.
India has banned the importation of foie gras, meaning that it cannot legally be sold anywhere in the country.