Force-feeding in foie gras production

In the foie gras industry, geese and ducks undergo force-feeding (or ‘gavage’). A funnel is forced down their oesophagus to make them ingest large quantities of food. This very painful procedure results in the fatty degeneration of the liver, which gives the typical colour and consistency of foie gras.

Gavage can occur up to three times a day, and begins when the birds are approximately 12 weeks old. It lasts 12 to 16 days, after which the birds are slaughtered.

Force-feeding is unacceptable on animal welfare grounds. The livers of force-fed birds can end up being ten times their normal size due to gavage, and the excess weight makes it difficult for them to walk, resulting in lameness and foot lesions. 

What is more, the feeding pipe can damage the oesophagus and cause injuries to the internal organs of these birds, along with how they are handled during force-feeding, which is often 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 force-feeding phase, usually in small cages equipped with a moving grid that squeezes them at the time of force-feeding, so that their neck is easier to grasp.

1814 grams

of grain and fat ducks are force-fed daily for two weeks to produce foie gras


Member States have made force-feeding illegal 


of French citizens are in favour of banning force-feeding


Ducks exhibit various behaviours in response to being force-fed, including restlessness during the first three days. This is followed by more frequent resting periods, increased wing-flapping and head-shaking. They also show a decrease in grooming and preening behaviours, spend less time with their heads in a resting position, and demonstrate a decline in general activity. The excessive amount of food they are fed causes the animals to spend a lot of time panting to disperse the extra heat produced during digestion. The thermal stress heightens their vulnerability to heat from the environment and exacerbates their overall discomfort. The analysis and understanding of these behavioural changes as indicators of compromised animal welfare have often been overlooked in numerous studies about force-feeding and foie gras production.


Only 5 out of 27 EU Member States continue to allow the force-feeding of birds for foie gras production: France, Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain, and Belgium (Wallonia only).

A 2022 survey in Wallonia demonstrated that 69% of the public supports a ban on force-feeding. In total, 85% of Walloons are in favour of a ban or are not opposed to it.

The 2023 special Eurobarometer on animal welfare showed that 91% of EU citizens think protecting the welfare of farm animals is important, and 84% think they should be better protected by the EU than they are now.

In 22 Member States, force-feeding animals for foie gras production is now illegal.


One reason for force-feeding geese and ducks is due to the minimum weights for foie gras production, arbitrarily included in 1991, and still set out in Regulation (EC) No 543/2008, the poultry marketing regulation. 

The practice of force-feeding is in open contradiction with Directive 58/98 concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, which states (point 14 of the ANNEX), “animals must be fed a wholesome diet which is appropriate to their age and species and which is fed to them in sufficient quantity to maintain them in good health and satisfy their nutritional needs. No animal shall be provided with food or liquid in a manner, nor shall such food or liquid contain any substance, which may cause unnecessary suffering or injury.”