Geese and ducks undergo force-feeding, or gavage, for the production of foie gras. This involves forcing a funnel into a bird’s throat and pushing great quantities of food into their stomach to induce an abnormal growth and accumulation of fat in the liver.
Gavage can occur up to 3 times a day, and begins when the birds are approximately 12 weeks old. It lasts for around 12 to 16 days, when the birds are then slaughtered.
There are numerous welfare concerns related to the practice. Birds’ livers can end up being ten times their normal size, and the excess weight makes it difficult for the birds to walk, resulting in lameness and foot lesions. The feeding pipe can damage the birds’ esophagus, their internal organs can be ruptured, and the handling involved during force-feeding is stressful in itself. Of course, force-feeding also prevents birds from carrying out their normal feeding behaviour.
As well as undergoing gavage, in most foie gras-producing countries ducks and geese are kept in unsuitable housing during the gavage phase, usually in small cages with their head placed through an opening in the front so the neck is easy to grasp.
Force-feeding isn’t the only form of suffering to which ducks and geese are subjected. Many are also used for the production of items which contain feathers and down, such as pillows, duvets and winter coats. Birds can be “live plucked”, in other words, have their feathers ripped out, up to four times during their lifespan.
THE AGE AT WHICH GAVAGE BEGINS
OF FEATHERS AND DOWN COME FROM CHINA