Throughout the pandemic, humans had to spend more time indoors than in years previous. While the fear of sickness or transmission kept most of us indoors, it took a toll on our mental and physical health. This confinement time made most of us appreciate the small things we took for granted, especially the freedom to roam.
Now, imagine that from this day forward, someone will force you to live in a small space filled with other people with no doors or windows to offer any chance of escape. You’re so cramped together that you can hardly move, let alone walk or run—piles of feces and urine from everyone – only separated by wire flooring inches below all your feet.
Each day someone ten times your size throws you in a pen, holds you by the neck, and shoves a tube down your throat, filling your stomach until you’re vomiting. Your skin may be ripped open, and your jaw may be broken, yet this happens to you repeatedly daily. There is no freedom or comfort, only pain, and torment. This scenario is the cruel reality of life for ducks farmed for foie gras.
What is Foie Gras?
Foie Gras is a French term that translates to “fat liver.” Force-feeding ducks or geese creates the high-priced dish in a process called gavage. Gavage happens by inserting a tube down a duck’s throat until it reaches the stomach to fill it to capacity and sometimes beyond as fast as possible. The purpose is solely to enlarge the liver – often to 10x the average size.
Using gavage to create fatty liver can be traced back to ancient Egypt. From there, it made its way across the Mediterranean and eventually brought the popular delicacy to France and worldwide. Once a dish for royalty, Foie gras has come to be associated with luxury and status. It sells for upwards of $60 per pound in the United States.
Why is Foie Gras Unethical?
Foie gras production is often considered cruel and unethical due to the gavage force-feeding process and confinement. The gavage process results in hepatic steatosis in the liver, which causes the organ to swell to several times its standard size. In humans, this is also called fatty liver disease. Because farmers don’t want ducks to lose weight, they are also crammed together in tiny spaces to the point where they can barely move. Essentially, the producers give ducks and geese a disease before slaughtering them.
When put into the feeding pens, ducks in foie gras farms fear handlers and try to avoid them as much as they can. After the forced feeding, birds will begin panting and struggle to walk as they try to escape. Often ducks are injured during gavage. Their beaks can be wounded or broken, their esophagus damaged, and their tiny bodies can hardly handle the side effects of obesity brought on by the feedings.
Another often unseen cruelty in the foie gras industry is that farmers only raise male geese or ducks for foie gras. Female ducklings or geese are of no use to the foie gras industry, so they are thrown into grinders alive or suffocated shortly after they hatch. This killing process is similar to how farmers discard male chicks in egg farming facilities.
The Legal Fight Against Foie Gras
At the dawn of the 21st century, animal rights activists began speaking out against foie gras and drawing attention to the cruel methods used against the ducks slaughtered for it. Over the years, several countries and states have passed laws limiting or banning foie gras; yet it is still considered a delicacy in some places, particularly in French cuisine.
Chicago became the first city to enact a restaurant ban against foie gras in 2006, though the state repealed the law in 2008. The same thing happened in California in 2012 when they passed a foie gras ban, which got revoked in 2015. In 2017, California’s foie gras ban was upheld by a circuit court judge and backed by the Supreme Court in 2019.
New York City passed a bill in 2019 to ban retailers and restaurants from selling foie gras. This bill was supposed to go into effect in November 2022. Still, as of January 2023, New York State is fighting the ban, saying it ‘violates state law’ because it ‘unreasonably restricts’ farm operations. The ban is on hold until lawsuits by Upstate New York Farms go through the courts.
In 2022, FARM Animal Rights Movement started a ‘Foie Gras Free DC’ campaign calling on restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area to stop using foie gras. The petition calling for restaurants to stop serving foie gras has reached over 27,000 signatures at the time of this article.
The petition states: “The production of foie gras is inhumane and unnecessary. The force-feeding process can cause injury to the esophagus, and the forcibly fattened birds can suffer from difficulty walking, vomiting, confinement, and more. And yet restaurants throughout Washington, D.C., are still serving it. We need your signatures to take to restaurants throughout D.C. to show them that foie gras should be a thing of the past!”.
The Future is Foie Gras Free
There’s no denying that every ounce of foie gras comes with 100 lbs of cruelty. We look forward to a day when people discuss how barbaric previous generations were to condone the treatment these sentient beings suffer. Until that day, animal rights activists will never stop speaking out against the inhumane treatment of ducks around the world raised for foie gras.