Foie gras—the fatty liver product produced by force-feeding ducks or geese until their livers expand as much as 10 times their normal size—is becoming more and more unpopular each day. Hotel chains Bilderberg, Carlton, and Mövenpick just recently announced that they are no longer serving foie gras in their Dutch hotels because it is inhumanely produced. Costco, the discount warehouse club, also recently stopped selling foie gras, largely because of animal welfare concerns. Target made the ethical decision to stop selling foie gras in 2008 and numerous restaurants across the U.S. have taken the cruel and controversial dish off of their menus.
At least 15 countries, including the U.K., Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Israel, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic have laws against foie gras, and the production and sale of foie gras will become illegal in California in 2012. Five California city councils have even passed resolutions praising businesses that stop selling the fatty liver before the state law goes into effect.
Why the Flap About Foie Gras?
In foie gras factories, birds are restrained and up to 4 pounds of grain and fat are pumped into their stomachs through metal pipes each day. The pipes sometimes puncture the birds’ throats, and the massive amounts of food causes their livers to become diseased and swell up like balloons. While the livers of force-fed birds can expand up to 10 times their natural size, the livers of migrating birds, by contrast, never more than double in size, even when they are "fattening up" for a long journey.
Many force-fed birds become so sick they can barely move. Dr. Ian Duncan, who holds an emeritus chair in animal welfare at the University of Guelph in Canada, says “Force feeding quickly results in birds that are obese and in a pathological state, called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease. There is no doubt, that in this pathological state, the birds will feel very ill.” Dr. Duncan further explains that the regular insertion of a feeding tube also damages the birds' esophagi, which exacerbates the painfulness of each force feeding.
The mortality rate of birds raised for foie gras is as much as 20 times higher than that of birds raised normally, and carcasses show wing fractures and severe tissue damage to the throat muscles.
Don't Stomach Such Cruelty
No one who professes to care about animal welfare can defend foie gras production. A spokesperson for the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association has pointed out that “[f]orcing animals to overeat to the extent that their livers are expanded to 10 to 12 times the normal size and then feeding those livers to humans as a delicacy seems barbaric, senseless and clearly unnecessary.”
See for yourself—watch the undercover footage from foie gras farms on www.GoVeg.com and you’ll understand why Costco, Target, and many other stores, restaurants, and hotels refuse to sell foie gras.
Unfortunately, the dreadful dish is still sold in many places throughout the U.S. and abroad. In order to give people an alternative to eating a duck’s diseased liver, PETA has issued a Fine Faux Foie Gras Challenge, a search for the best original vegetarian foie gras. The individual, group, or company that develops the winning faux foie gras recipe will win $10,000. Two runners-up will receive $1,000 worth of kitchen equipment.
PETA is also asking people to urge the managers of restaurants and stores that sell foie gras to stop selling the cruel product. People can also help ducks and geese who are killed for foie gras by urging their local lawmakers to introduce or support legislation to prohibit foie gras. See http://www.goveg.com/feat/foie/ for more information about foie gras or to take PETA's "No Foie Gras" pledge.