Foie gras refers to the final product produced via the force-feeding of ducks and geese. This process swells their livers up to 10 times their natural size. This is done by forcing pipes down the birds' throats (also known as ‘gavage’). Although Australia does not produce foie gras, the livers of force-fed ducks and geese remains a delicacy that is imported. Therefore, it is vital that consumers who eat foie gras know how this cruellest of foods is produced.
France is the world’s largest producer of foie gras (the name meaning ‘fat liver’ in French). Currently, its production is banned in Israel, many European countries and the state of California in the US. These states have enacted a ban on foie gras due to the extreme cruelty inherent in its production. The European Union is due to phase out foie gras production entirely by 2020.
To produce foie gras, ducks and geese are force-fed three times per day by having a pipe shoved down their throat, forcing grain and fat directly into their stomachs. This causes their livers to swell to up to 10 times their normal size. The pipes used are known to cause bruising and tears to the birds’ throats and associated internal organs. As a result of this process, many birds struggle to stand due to their unnaturally swollen livers. Due to the extreme stress, birds tear out their own feathers and have been documented cannibalising each other. The workers are expected to force feed up to 500 birds per day. This demand means the birds are often handled extremely roughly. Many birds die before slaughter from complications associated with burst livers. One factory investigated by PETA, found that workers were given a bonus if they killed less than 50 birds each month.
Injury and Illness
In addition to the painful complications stemming from force-feeding, the production of foie gras also causes foot infections, damaged kidneys and spleens, broken bills and lumps in the throat, and skin burns due to exposure to high ammonia levels. Many birds choke to death due the workers handling the birds by their necks. The birds also suffer the same cruel treatment as other factory-farmed animals, such as chickens, including overcrowding, mutilation without pain relief, the inability to perform natural behaviours and having no access to water that the birds naturally feed and bathe in.
Early Death and "Wastage"
Male ducks and geese are used to produce foie gras because they have larger livers and are, compared to females, believed to better withstand the inherent cruelty. This means that female chicks, like male chicks in the egg industry, are killed directly after birth.