Introduction to foie-gras
Ducks and geese are extraordinary animals. So extraordinary in fact that one type of goose can fly higher than Mount Everest! Ducks are no less remarkable, and none can fail to be moved by their sheer joie-de-vivre as they take to ponds with limitless gusto. Both are water fowl. They play, feed, swim – do almost everything in water.
Ducks in their natural setting
Now imagine the mindset that robs these magnificent animals of the freedom of an open river and subjects them to a practice so barbaric that it causes disease in healthy birds.
Every year in France, around 44 million ducks and geese are forced to ingest obscene amounts of food so that their livers swell painfully to up to ten times their normal size. Their diseased livers are then sold as ‘high class’ cuisine: foie-gras (literally ‘fatty liver’ in French). This is torture marketed as a delicacy – the pain and suffering of millions of birds forgotten amongst the clinking of glasses filled with fine wine. Other countries also produce foie-gras, including Hungary and China.
Just imagine the pain and frustration of never being able to migrate, let alone move. In France ducks now account for around 98 per cent of the birds used in foie-gras production. Most are forced into metal cages little bigger than their bodies. These cages are so small they can’t even stretch their wings, let alone escape from the torture of forced feeding.
Taken from the waterways and forced into French factory farms
Held immobile, birds will suffer the pain and terror of having a metal tube, 20 – 30 centimetres long, thrust down their throats until it reaches the stomach. Vast quantities of corn are forcibly pumped down the tube. This horrific process can happen up to three times a day. There is no escape and no respite.
Naturally, most birds try to struggle, but there is nowhere to go. If a bird’s oesophagus contracts with the urge to vomit, the metal tube can cause suffocation and potentially fatal wounds in his throat. These lesions can become infected and painfully inflamed.
Immediately after forced feeding, he is trapped in the cage, suffering from inevitable breathlessness and diarrhoea. The enlargement of the liver makes all movement painful.
Is it any wonder that foie-gras is called ‘torture in a tin’?
Sadly, it’s no wonder that as many as one million birds die during this force feeding period in France alone – and many more are close to death as they are sent for their final journey to the slaughterhouse.
One of foie-gras’ hidden horrors is that up to 38 million female ducklings are thrown alive into electric mincers at just a few days old. This violent and horrific death is just because their livers are too ‘veiny’, and they don’t put on weight as quickly as males.
But we shouldn’t just think this is a case of British good, foreign bad. Although the production of foie-gras is essentially banned in the UK, the British remain among the world's largest consumers, with tons sold here every year (we import more French foie-gras than Germany, Italy and Holland). The Government refuse to act, bowing to outdated free trade rules.
As ever, it is up to the consumer to take matters into their own hands – and Viva! will be right there at the forefront. To help end the suffering of these ducks and geese we need to make Britain a foie-gras free zone. Its consumption must become socially unacceptable, and we must put pressure on restaurants and hotels that persist in selling this ‘torture in a tin’.
A million birds die on French farms during force feeding every year
The pain and suffering caused by foie-gras production has no place in a civilised society. Viva!’s ongoing Ducks Out of Water campaign has seen duck deaths dive by two million in the last few years. With this campaign our aim is simple – to make Britain a foie-gras free zone.