How the Production of Foie Gras Impacts the Health of Ducks and Geese
As a result of increased animal welfare awareness in the past few decades, the production of foie gras has been thrown into question. Various investigations have shown the horrific methods used to get the live birds’ livers inflated to the desired size, and it has resulted in widespread public condemnation and disgust in the manufacturing of the luxury food item.
This is somewhat justified. At least historically, and often at present as well, the production is extremely painful to the birds involved, leading many to call it torturous. Most people are disgusted not at the food product itself, but at the process that is undertaken to acquire the said product.
After all, liver is a common thing to eat, and most people eat meat or eggs that have their origins in battery enclosures. However, foie gras is so infamous because of the way the ducks and geese are force-fed.
The Process of the Production of Foie Gras
For a liver product to be considered foie gras, it must be inflated to ten times the size of a functioning duck or goose liver. This process must go ahead whilst the bird is still alive, meaning manufacturers must find a way to grotesquely inflate the liver whilst the bird is still breathing.
This is done by forcing the bird to eat 20kg of grain per day. Naturally, no bird would voluntarily eat such a large, and indeed dangerous, amount of food, so a tube must be forced down the bird’s neck for it to work. As a result of this, the living environment for these birds is dominated by vomit and feces.
Once the bird is ready for processing, so as not to damage the coveted liver, the bird’s throat is slit, and it is left to die a painful death. This is the common process for the production of foie gras around the world but done on an industrial scale. Thousands of ducks and geese are processed at a time, each of them receiving the same treatment, and each is highly desired by upmarket restaurants.
This process is seen as highly harmful by many people, but there is still a great demand for foie gras. It is seen as a luxury food product, partly because it is, or at least was, the sort of food only the aristocracy could historically eat, and partly because the process is so expensive.
The amount of grain required per bird in itself is huge, not to mention the fact that premature death rates are twenty times higher when a bird has an abnormally large liver. This is why although there are some abolition campaigns, governments are unlikely to oblige, as the production is so beneficial to the economy.
However, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, most provinces of Austria and Israel have all unilaterally banned the production of foie gras, plus its sale in restaurants.
Animal protection laws severely hinder the production in Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It is because of this, and the numerous animal welfare concerns, that some manufacturers are striving to make production more humane for the birds as a way of getting around public disgust and strict animal protection laws.
Artisan and Ethical Foie Gras
Foie gras that is seen as better for the health of the ducks and geese is usually described as ‘artisan foie gras’. This is usually even more expensive than conventional foie gras and can be very similar.
Many major American and European manufacturers describe themselves as artisan manufacturers yet still carry out most of the same force-feeding techniques, although this is hindered in the European Union as a result of its ban on animals being kept in individual cages.
Unfortunately, there is not a universal definition of ‘artisan foie gras’, so any manufacturer can name itself an artisan manufacturer as a way to claim it manufactures foie gras in a humane way. However, some smaller manufacturers produce ‘ethical foie gras’, in which the bird is tricked into an impending migration and so stocks up on grain of its own accord.
This may be the best option to change the way foie gras is produced to ensure the humane and ethical treatment of the ducks and geese.
This is a guest post written by Jessica Loticus.
Jessica is a Bio grad student, animal rights activist, and environmentalist. She is an aspiring journalist who focuses on how animal life is endangered due to human activity. Jessica is concerned about how humans are unwilling to share their habitat with animals.
Jessica’s interests include, rock climbing, camping, and hiking. She loves to explore the outdoors enjoying nature and spending time with her beloved pets. She has three dogs, a Golden Retriever, a Siberian Husky, and a Miniature Schnauzer.
Living a busy life, Jessica prioritizes her health and the health of her animals. She lives a low-waste lifestyle and is a practicing vegan. Her energetic personality allows her to allot time to each of these beliefs and urges others to do their part. “In order to implement change people must start at a base level.” Choosing to eat a salad instead of meat three times a week is how Jessica began her journey as a vegan. She opts for glass products instead of plastic. Jessica believes we have power as consumers to urge companies to be waste-conscious.
As a biology student, Jessica understands that the way humans interact with animals and their surroundings has a profound impact on the planet. Jessica wants to combat this by informing the public that we must first view animals as our equals before we can tackle issues like climate change.
Animals are directly endangered and humans must take responsibility if they have any chance of survival. Jessica believes saving animals begins at the home level. Most believe that animals have entered their home but in reality they have occupied the home from the animals in the surrounding environment.
There are safe effective ways to take action against animal intruders that endanger neither the animal nor the human. Jessica wants to spread awareness about animal intruder precautions to save local wildlife.