Foie Gras

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 more food than is usually required 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 15 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.

In most foie gras-producing countries, ducks and geese are kept in unsuitable housing during the gavage phase. 

Usually they are kept 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 for ducks and geese.

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 lives. 

GAVAGE BEGINS WHEN BIRDS ARE

9

WEEKS OLD

60%

OF FEATHERS AND DOWN COMES FROM CHINA

IN A SURVEY IN FRANCE IN 2018,

47%

OF RESPONDENTS WERE IN FAVOUR OF A BAN ON FORCE-FEEDING 

WHAT DOES THE PUBLIC THINK?

Only five out of 28 EU member states continue to force-feed birds for the production of foie gras – Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Hungary and Spain. A 2018 survey in France by Eurogroup for Animals’ Member Organisation L214 demonstrated that 60% of respondents were in favor of a ban on force-feeding ducks and geese for the production of foie gras, compared to 44% in 2009.

More recently, the 2016 special Eurobarometer on animal welfare showed that 94% of EU citizens think protecting the welfare of farmed animals is important, and 82% think they should be better protected by the EU than they are now.

POLICY - CURRENT STATE OF PLAY

One reason for force feeding geese and ducks is due to the minimum weights for foie gras production set out in Regulation (EC) No 543/2008, the poultry marketing regulation. This contradicts Directive 58/98 concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes.

Most European Union Member States have implemented a ban on the production of foie gras. Of the five remaining foie gras-producing countries in the EU, the Brussels region of Belgium implemented a symbolic ban in 2017, even though there are no foie gras producers there. Flanders will ban the production of foie gras as of 2023.

Eurogroup for Animals’ vision is to see a ban on both force-feeding for foie gras and live plucking. 

We will push for the abolition of the minimum liver weights required for the denomination of foie gras. As such, we are calling for a revision of the poultry marketing regulation and for clear labelling of all foie gras which has been produced without force-feeding.

In collaboration with industry, we will call for humane alternatives to live plucking for the production of down.