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Factory Farming > Birds > Foie Gras - Index

 Imagine you've just eaten an enormous lunch. So enormous that you can hardly move. In fact, you are finding it difficult to breathe. You feel bloated, swollen and in agony. "Why did I do it?", you ask yourself. "Never again!"

Now imagine you didn't have the choice. What if, like the geese used to produce foie gras, you were forced to repeat the process time and time again? What if, for the next 16 days, at regular - all to short - intervals, somebody pushed a rigid metal tube down your throat and filled your stomach with food. The pain, discomfort and utter misery you would feel can only be imagined.

Who could possibly justify this kind of suffering merely to produce an expensive hors d'oeuvre?

It's time we finished off this barbaric practice once and for all...
 

Foie gras is the grossly swollen liver of the ducks and geese fattened by force feeding once they are fully grown. This overfeeding distorts the body, causing the liver to swell to more than seven times its normal size. The bigger the liver, the more foie gras - and profit!

In France alone, where the practice is known as gavage, many hundreds of thousands of birds are forcibly fed - 'crammed' - each year. To meet demand, France also imports fattened livers from Israel and mid-European countries, such as Hungary, where the cramming process is similar to their own methods. France's total exports of foie gras amount to many hundreds of tons annually.

To cram a goose means to stuff 400-500g (approx 1lb) of salted, cooked maize (often lubricated with goose fat into its crop at least three times a day, for a minimum of 16 days. By the 12th day, the goose is being crammed every three hours - that's eight times in one day - even throughout the night. On the 17th day, the geese are slaughtered. Their bodies are so distended by this time that they can hardly move and can breathe only with difficulty.

"Swollen sacks shuffling on inadequate legs in cramped spaces" is the independent verdict of one eye-witness, a well know writer. European foie gras farms are now using electric cramming machines - which push the feed through the funnel and down the bird's throat by means of a mechanical, rotating screw. This allows far more birds to be crammed.

EarthKind's latest initiative

EarthKind recently sent an investigation to Hungary, Belgium and France and he confirmed that the horrific practices exposed by EarthKind are as bad as ever. He said "the geese are obviously terrified by the whir of the machinery, associating the sounds with more pain, and have to be dragged struggling from the cage - normally by a wing".

Some French farmers have tried to defend force-feeding for foie gras by saying that it merely takes advantage of the bird's natural instinct to over-eat in preparation for winter migration. They say that the geese enjoy it and even queue up to be fed. This, as our investigator witnesses - in France, Belgium and Hungary - could not be further from the truth. "Before cramming, the birds were so frightened that they huddled together as far away from the farmer as they could get - pushing themselves against the bars of the cage in an attempt to escape."

Methods of control vary, but can be anything from sitting on the bird to immobilizing it with a metal apron and keeping a tight grip on the throat. The welfare of the bird is the last thing on the farmer's mind.

"Some geese and ducks were obviously very ill from awful throat infections caused by repeatedly pushing the metal tube into the throat - and yet they were still being crammed. Many die in their cages."

Our investigator was often treated with great hostility and suspicion whilst filming. Foie gras producers know that once we in Britain see the facts for ourselves, a large part of their export market will be lost.

One French farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals said: "It is a brutal process, and the animals have to be carefully watched during and after feeding, since mechanical force-feeding is liable to cause accidents."
 

FACT: Foie gras literally means 'fat liver'. People who eat foie gras are swallowing 85 per cent fat - which goes directly to their own liver, raising cholesterol, and contributing to many other health problems.
 
FACT: During cramming, the liver becomes a totally abnormal organ - grossly oversized in proportion to the bird's body. Our investigator describes it graphically: "It's like forcing an animal to smoke enormous quantities of cigarettes and then selling its cancerous, deformed lungs as a delicacy."

FACT: A large part of the world's human population suffers from malnutrition - yet we allow valuable grain stocks to be used to produce this expensive, 'gourmet food' to be sold in up-market shops and restaurants.

BEWARE: Do not confuse foie gras products with ordinary liver pates or meat pastes. Look carefully at the label for the words foie gras. All foie gras products are expensive. Foie gras is sold either as pure foie gras (100 per cent goose or duck liver obtained by forcible cramming) or in foie gras products, eg pate de foie gras, terrine de foie gras etc which contain other ingredients as well.

EarthKind's campaign against this cruelty, which began nearly 30 years ago, has resulted in widespread publicity in Britain and abroad. In 1980 our campaign reached the European Parliament and 410 MEPs received a copy of our special report. The tremendous increase in European support that followed was demonstrated by the near victory achieved in 1983, when an attempt to achieve an EC ban on forcible cramming was lost by only seven votes!

Ten years on, we feel public opinion against this cruelty is even stronger, and ready to support a fight to the finish. If enough voices are raised, a ban on imports into the UK, followed by a ban on cramming in Europe, could be within reach.
 

This cruelty must stop!

For 30 years EarthKind has led a pioneering campaign against forcible goose-cramming for foie gras.
Ten years ago our attempt to achieve an EC ban failed by just seven votes.

Now we have the chance to finish the job.

It CAN be done - with your support.

Please make the facts as widely known as possible. Distribute copies of this leaflet where they will do most good. We will supply as many leaflets as you need on request.
    Send a copy of the leaflet to your local press, radio and TV and ask them to publicize the facts.
    Give a copy to the managers of hotels and restaurants in your area with foie gras on the menu.
    Most important: Ask your MP to press for an import ban. Ask your MEP (name and address from your local library) to press for an EC ban on forcible cramming for foie gras.
    Send for the EarthKind Foie Gras Information Pack for more detailed and helpful suggestions for action against cramming.
    Send us a donation to combat this brutal cruelty.
    Become a member of EarthKind.

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EarthKind
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