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Force-Feeding for Foie Gras

Foie Gras: a cruel delicacy

What gourmets see as a delicacy is hell for ducks and geese: foie gras. In reality, the unnaturally oversized liver is simply a diseased and altered organ created through extreme animal cruelty. Globally there are an estimated 42 million ducks and 3 million geese used in foie gras production; the top producing countries are France, Hungary, Bulgaria, the United States, Canada, and China.


For a product commonly regarded as a luxury, the force-feeding of ducks and geese for foie gras is one of the cruelest practices on animals. The purpose of force-feeding is to make the animals sick through over-feeding, resulting in a diseased liver that grows to 8 or more times the normal size. For humans, scientific studies have shown that consumption of foie gras is associated with a fatal disease called secondary amyloidosis.


The practice of force feeding involves a thick tube that is rammed down the animal’s throat, allowing for a large amount of food (typically a mixture of boiled corn and pure fat) to be pumped directly into the stomach. The metal tube is stuck down their throats as often as three times per day for two to three weeks and the amount of food is increased from feeding to feeding. Mechanical feeding technology allows for a production line of force-feeding. Up to 400 animals per hour can be force-fed by these mechanized systems and made successively ill.

The brutal manner of force-feeding through metal tubes leads to serious injury of the esophagus, often causing wounds and puncture holes. This is particularly evident when the animals are left panting after the administration of their feed mixture. The symptoms suffered by the geese or ducks include thermal (heat) stress, shortness of breath, and the formation of a pathogenic fatty liver. By the end of their lives, the fat content of the liver is more than 50%. Due to their enormous body mass, most geese and ducks can barely walk and spend most of their time sitting.


Geese and ducks are birds that are used to living by the water. Their natural instincts are to explore their surroundings, swim around and clean themselves, but none of this is possible in dark stables. Their space to move is limited; even if they had enough room to walk around, they hardly could due to their enormous weight increase. In many cases the conditions are even worse: after being force-fed, the animals are stuck into small cages so that they cannot exercise and their weight will keep increasing. According to a 2015 report published by the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, “With force-feeding the duck lacks control over an aspect of its life that is crucial to its survival, the ingestion of appropriate quantities of an appropriate diet. This loss of control leads to very poor welfare.”


As a result of this practice animals suffer from severe health problems and pain and some of them even die during the process of force-feeding or transport to slaughter. It’s hardly surprising that 10 to 20 times more animals die in the force-feeding industry than in conventional farming.

There are no cruelty-free ways of producing foie gras. The agony these animals have to suffer in their short lives makes us speechless and is therefore a practice that FOUR PAWS believes should be banned in the U.S. and abroad.