Foie gras production involves forcing large amounts of food through a pipe fitted in the esophagus of ducks and geese, a process known as gavage. This is used worldwide and has been a subject of criticism because of the perception to subject the birds through great pain and torture. The metal pipes in some cases, tear the throat leading to bleeding and leakage of blood into the lungs. This affects the normal breathing of the birds. The force involved in the process of feeding as well as the handling of the birds in preparation for feeding is said to subject the birds to huge stress. The food that is forced into the birds is more than what the bird would eat under normal natural feeding circumstances. This causes excessive fattening of the birds and swelling of their stomachs (Cruz 1).
The tube inserted down the duck’s throat for feeding creates enlargement of the liver. Human rights groups also claim that the process causes injuries to the ducks’ beak and the esophagus because of the regular insertion and removal of the metal pipe. The enlargement of the liver of up to 10 times the normal size severely affects the health of the ducks. It causes difficulty in breathing, birds cannot walk around well and often vomit the undigested food. After three to four weeks of forced feeding, the ducks struggle to breathe; their limbs get lame because of infection, fractures or injury during the forced feeding process and about 5 percent of the total population die before they are ready for market. This will lead to farmers being forced to dispose of the birds for slaughter.
The birds are also raised in foie gras factory farms confined in tiny cages or small pens that do not give the birds freedom of movement. This restraints the birds and makes it easier for the owner to grab the bird, insert the metal pipe through to the throat and force food that is about one-third to one-fourth of the bird’s weight. In their natural setting, ducks like swimming in water while dipping its head in the water at regular intervals. The bird constantly splashes itself with water which is a way of cleaning its feathers and cooling the body. The bird eats variety of foods such as worms and fish. In a restrained environment, all this freedom is denied the bird (Grant 58).
Key concerns for the non-farming public
The non-farming public is particularly concerned with the cruelty of the force-feeding process and the sickness of the birds that come along the process. The birds suffer during and after feeding and as a result of the swollen river, they find difficulty in breathing, walking and even standing (Cruz 1).
The animal welfare charities are concerned with the intensity of suffering that the birds go through from the bloated liver, which is considered inhumane. These charity organizations have intensified campaigns against forced feeding with great success in changing the public perception about foie gras. Their targets are the supermarkets and restaurants where foie grass is sold. Their aim is to stop the sale of this product and thus, cease its production. The charity also encourages consumers to stop buying the product. Their efforts have led to banning of force-feeding process in many countries in European Union, which include Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy and Luxembourg. Foie Gras production and consumption have been banned in some countries such as Italy and Turkey.
Foie Gras production and consumption concerns
The Foie Gras production and use are considered humane. This has been supported by many scientific facts and veterinarians as opposed to claims by vegetarian activists. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has scientific research on the use of Foie Gras and its effects on ducks and concluded that force-feeding is humane. The information written in various sources is biased and not based on firsthand observation of facts on the farm. Research shows that Foie Gras cannot cause any harm or infection.
Scientists have studied the release of stress hormones in ducks that are fed with foie gras. The results confirmed that the force-feeding of ducks causes no harm and does not cause stress of any nature. This is supported by the realistic fact that ducks lack a gag reflex. Their esophagi cannot be compared with that of humans. It has an insensitive lining that can swallow larger sizes of food, like a whole fish, without getting injured. Also, the long narrow tube used for feeding them is smooth and thus cannot injure the esophagi (Grant 60).
Studies prove that foie gras is non-pathological and non-harmful to ducks. Physiological indicators of stress and behavioral responses of the birds were not affected by forced feeding. So foie gras production takes advantage of this ability of ducks to expand their liver under different situations to force-feed the birds.
Mechanisms to remedy the bad elements of foie gras production and consumption
The way of feeding the birds has been altered to reduce or eliminate the torture and the pain that the birds are perceived to undergo. “Modern feeding systems use a tube feed by a pneumatic pump in order to save on time and minimize injuries during feeding” (Grant 62). The death of birds is also significantly reduced during the gavage period. The birds are also fed with a controlled amount of feed during the fattening period as opposed to earlier where the feed with its composition was fed on them leading to excessive fattening (Grant 62).
There has also been an alternative method of production of fattened liver other than gavage, which involves the timing of the slaughtering process, to occur during the winter migration (Grant 62). The birds are also allowed to feed on their own due to ethical concerns producing livers known as fatty goose liver.
Convincing the public
The remedies of the bad elements that come along with forced feeding are gathered from scientific research. These remedies have been able to resolve the ethical issues, which are subject to criticism of the forced feeding process in the public. The pain and suffering that the birds underwent are to be reduced or completely eliminated by use of modern systems of feeding, which use a tube feed by pneumatic pump (Cruz 1).
The reduced fat content in the fatty goose liver could also build the confidence of the public by encouraging people to continue consuming it as it is considered healthy. This is due to the use of alternative methods of producing fattened liver other than gavage.
The problem of confinement of the birds has also been addressed. Spacious cages that allow for free movement of the birds have been used to rear the birds. Also, at certain times of the day, the birds are exposed to sunlight or electrical lighting (Cruz 1).
Hope for repeal in Chicago
There are possibilities that the ban on foie gras production and consumption in Chicago could be repealed. Chicago thinks that people will start laughing at them for imposing a ban based on assumptions and with no scientific facts to support the decision. Since the ban was lifted, chefs have been protesting on the streets of Chicago demanding for the ban to be repealed. They saw it as a failure of the great state like Chicago to control whatever is produced or consumed. The ban was considered an addition to an omnibus bill that the majority of the council members had voted on without knowing that it had been added. The chefs are seeking appealing claiming that the city should not be deciding what people should eat or what not to eat. So, shortly, the ban is going to be repealed (Grant 76).
The increased concerns of a majority of citizens of states with the practice of force-feeding to produce foie gras have led to the need for the local governments to address the issue. Many citizens are opposed to the process of force-feeding to create foie gras, which is indicated by the legislation of foie gras, and the ban of its production and sale in more than fourteen countries. The legislation is driven by political will and concerns about animal cruelty. “Some people have argued that the regulation of foie gras, is counterproductive and may serve to legitimatize other broader but equally cruel uses of animals” (Grant 106). Still, progressive change that is symbolic of the population’s current cultural values is both an appropriate and significant step towards the moral and legal development of society (Grant 106).
Cruz, Clarissa. Bracing for the Foie Gras Ban. 2011. Web.
Grant, Joshua I. “Hell to the Sound of Trumpets: Why Chicago’s Ban on Foie Gras Was Constitutional and What It Means for the Future of Animal Welfare Laws.” Journal of Animal Law & Policy (2009): 2, 54-109. Print.