What is foie gras?
Foie gras means 'fatty liver'. It's a food product - a type of pâté - produced from the livers of force-fed ducks or geese. It's not produced in the UK, and would be illegal to produce under animal welfare laws due to the welfare problems associated with producing it. The main producers of foie gras are France, Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain and Belgium.
Foie gras production
Before force-feeding, birds are typically kept in buildings on straw bedding with access to an outdoor area. Force-feeding begins when the birds are around 12 weeks old, and lasts for around 12 to 15 days, when the birds are then slaughtered.
Around 80% of the ducks are kept individually in small, wire or plastic cages with their head placed through an opening in the front, so the neck is easy to grasp. During force-feeding, a feeding pipe is inserted into the bird's mouth and down its throat. A large quantity of food is then delivered down the pipe for 45 to 60 seconds using a motorised or hand-operated auger, or for 2 to 3 seconds using an automatic pump. The birds are usually force-fed two or three times each day.
Key welfare issues
We're opposed to foie gras production due to the many serious welfare problems it causes for the birds involved, including:
- Stopping birds from carrying out their normal feeding behaviour
- The feeding pipe can damage the birds' throats
- The handling involved during force-feeding can be stressful
- Birds' livers may become 6 to 10 times the normal size and stop working properly
- Keeping birds in small, individual cages stops them from standing, walking, preening, stretching their wings and carrying out their normal behaviours properly
How can you help?
Please don't buy foie gras. If you see it for sale, write to the retailer's head office or speak to the restaurant manager, expressing your concerns and asking them not to stock it. Mushroom pâté makes a delicious, cruelty-free alternative.
What are we doing?
We urge all retailers not to stock foie gras, and press all restaurants and other food retailers not to have it on their menus.
Find out more about the welfare issues around ducks farmed for meat.