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Foie Gras: Delicacy of Despair

To produce “foie gras” (which literally means “fatty liver”), workers ram pipes down male ducks’ or geese’s throats two or three times daily and pump as much as 4 pounds of grain and fat into the animals’ stomachs, causing their livers to swell to up to 10 times their normal size. Many birds have difficulty standing because of their engorged livers, and they may tear out their own feathers and cannibalize each other out of stress.

The birds are kept in tiny cages or packed into sheds. On some farms, a single worker may be expected to force-feed 500 birds three times each day. Because workers rush, animals are often treated roughly and left injured and suffering.

A PETA investigation at Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York (then called “Commonwealth Enterprises”) found that so many ducks died when their organs ruptured from overfeeding that workers who killed fewer than 50 birds per month were given a bonus. Many ducks develop foot infections, kidney necrosis, spleen damage, bruised and broken bills, and tumor-like lumps in their throats. One duck had a maggot-infested neck wound so severe that water spilled out of it when he drank.

Another PETA investigation at Hudson Valley in 2013 documented that prior to the force-feeding period, young ducks were crammed by the thousands into huge warehouse-like sheds in conditions that are virtually identical to those for “broiler” chickens and turkeys on factory farms. Ducks who were being force-fed were confined up to a dozen at a time to a pen measuring just 4 feet by 6 feet. PETA’s investigator saw workers drag ducks by their necks along the wire floor and pin the ducks between their legs before ramming the metal force-feeding tubes down their throats.

By Hudson Valley’s own calculations, approximately 15,000 ducks on the farm die every year before they can be slaughtered. Common causes of death on foie gras farms include ruptured organs, throat injuries, liver failure, and heat stress—all direct results of force-feeding. Some ducks die of aspiration pneumonia, which occurs when the grain is forced down into the ducks’ lungs or when birds choke on their own vomit. Ducks at Hudson Valley are killed on site, and PETA’s investigator documented at least one bird still moving after his throat had been cut.

At a farm located outside Montréal owned by Palmex, Inc., which is a brand of the world’s largest foie gras producer, Rougié, PETA documented ducks lined up in rows of iron coffin-like cages that encase the ducks’ bodies like vices. The birds’ heads and necks protrude through small openings to allow for ease of force-feeding. The birds can do little more than stand up, lie down, and turn their heads. They cannot turn around or spread a single wing. Similar conditions have been documented on French foie gras farms, even though shoebox-style cages were supposed to have been eliminated there as of 2010.

Foie gras is so cruel that California has banned its production. Force-feeding has also been outlawed in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K. India has banned the import of foie gras, meaning that it cannot legally be sold anywhere in the country.

Join Sir Roger Moore and countless others around the world in refusing to eat foie gras. You can even take one more step by giving up all animal products for one month. Take PETA’s Pledge to Be Vegan for 30 Days, and we’ll send you our top tips on the best places to eat out, our favorite recipes, info on the tastiest animal-friendly snacks, and suggestions for the most delicious prepackaged cruelty-free meals.

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