What the Experts Say about Foie Gras

"The only recommendation the Committee can properly make is that force-feeding of ducks and geese should stop and this could be best achieved by the prohibition of the production, importation, distribution and sale of foie gras."

—Dr. D.J. Alexander, European Union Expert Committee

 

"The liver steatosis caused by 'gavage' is a pathological process that shows itself first by a fatty degeneration of the hepatic cells and then by necrosis. The fatty liver cannot be seen as normal. It is a categorical sign of a state of illness with clinical symptoms."

—Dr. Marianne Heimann, Veterinary Pathologist

 

“The production of fatty liver for foie gras… raises serious animal welfare issues and it is not a practice that is condoned by FAO.”
—The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations

 

"I eat meat including ducks on occasion. However, the short tortured lives of ducks raised for foie gras is well outside the norm of farm practice. Having seen the pathology that occurs from foie gras production, I strongly recommend that this process be outlawed."

—Dr. Ward Stone, Senior Wildlife Pathologist, New York Dept of Environmental Conservation

 

“The problems of the force-feeding procedure are: (1) handling by humans which, in the commercial force-feeding situation, can cause aversion and discomfort for ducks and geese, (2) the potentially damaging and distressing effects of the tube which is inserted into the oesophagus, (3) the rapid intubation of a large volume of food. . . ducks at the end of the force-feeding period can have serious injuries to the oesophagus. . . It seems likely that birds have sufficient damage to oesophagus tissue, caused by the force-feeding process to have been painful to the birds...There is good evidence that liver structure and function that would be classified as normal is severely altered and compromised in force fed ducks and geese. . . because normal liver function is seriously impaired in birds with the hyperatrophied liver which occurs at the end of force-feeding the level of steatosis should be considered pathological. . . It is clear that steatosis and other effects of force-feeding are lethal when the procedures are continued."
—European Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare, entitled "Welfare Aspects of the Production of Foie Gras in Ducks and Geese"

 

"It's the same as cigarettes, it should carry a health warning so that people know what's been done to the animal."
—Influential French Chef Albert Roux

 

“Foie gras is in fact a diseased liver. . . Forced feeding of waterfowl, or food induced hepatic steatosis, leads to pathological changes in the liver which cause undeniable suffering to these animals. The economic goal of the process is to effect the maximum change to this organ in the minimum amount of time in order to maximize profits. It must, however, be ended before the manifestations of degeneration, which are unavoidable beyond a certain point, affect the quality (the powdery texture) of the product or the overall health of the birds. . . . Moreover, at the end of this process the birds are unable to make the slightest exertion, which is the direct opposite of the purpose [of fatty buildup] under natural conditions… There is no comparison between the natural buildup of fats by waterfowl before migration, which occurs in peripheral tissue (50% in the breast area), and the extreme conditions which result from forced feeding.”
—French veterinarian Dr. Yvan Beck, in his comprehensive study, "The force-feeding of poultry and the production of foie gras"

 

“My view on the production of foie gras is clear and supported by biological evidence. This practice causes unacceptable suffering to these animals. . . It causes pain during and as a consequence of the force-feeding, feelings of malaise as the body struggles to cope with extreme nutrient imbalance and distress caused by loss of control over the birds' most basic homeostatic regulation mechanism as their hunger control system is over-ridden.”
—Christine Nichol, Professor of Animal Welfare at the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol

 

 “[F]orce feeding quickly results in birds that are obese and in a pathological state, called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease. There is no doubt that in this pathological state, the birds will feel very ill. In my view it is completely unethical to deliberately promote a diseased state in an animal. The birds' obesity will lead to a myriad of other problems from skeletal disorders to difficulties in coping with heat stress and all of which are accompanied by feelings of malaise.”

—Dr. Ian Duncan, a poultry welfare expert and professor in Applied Ethology at the University of Guelph in Canada

 

"I believe that the conditions described, under which these birds were kept and the fact that they had been force-fed to create an obese and unhealthy state constitutes unnecessary cruelty… The liver is there to clean out toxins from the blood stream. If the liver can't work properly, you've got all these toxins flowing through the blood, making them feel bad in various ways, so it can harm various organs as well as the brain."
—Dr. Laurie Siperstein-Cook, Avian Veterinarian

 

"Force-feeding ducks and geese up to 4 pounds of mash a day for a 'delicacy' causes the animals to suffer from a painful illness that causes their livers to swell up to ten times their normal size. Anyone who eats foie gras is personally responsible for the suffering of these animals. It is up to restaurateurs and consumers to refuse to contribute to this suffering by refusing to eat or serve foie gras." 
—Dr. Elliot M. Katz, DVM

 

“Foie gras is the grossly enlarged liver of a duck or goose, obtained by restraining the animal and inserting a long tube down his throat, through which large quantities of food are forced into his stomach. The bird’s liver becomes so enlarged that, according to the documentation of veterinarians, the animal must experience unspeakable pain and suffering. The results of necropsies performed on dead birds that had been force-fed have shown ruptured livers, throat damage,  esophageal trauma and food spilling from the birds’ throats and out of their nostrils….Foie gras  production involves, indeed necessitates, untold suffering and violates section 353 [New York State’s anti-cruelty statute].”
—Stacy Wolf, Esq., ASPCA

 

 “I have several professional concerns about the methods used to raise these birds... although these animals have a genetic predisposition to store larger amounts of fat in their liver, they do so for the specific purpose of preparing to migrate. The birds in the industry do not migrate and do not presumably receive the external environmental cues that would normally signal them to begin to eat more than usual. In addition to this, under natural situations, the birds eat a particular amount voluntarily. In light of that, it is a false statement that the techniques the industry uses is simply mimicking a natural behavior. Despite the misrepresentation of the industry using natural techniques, force-feeding in itself can cause significant discomfort.”
—Dr. Emily Levine, Veterinarian & Ethology Expert

 

"Force-feeding is by all accounts a cruel way of raising an animal... the liver is made incapable of functioning, thus becoming excessively fatty and smooth."

—Hrayr Berberoglu, Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage

 

“Does foie gras amount to cruel and unusual punishment? — with an absolute yes.

The birds do suffer during the feeding process. A stomach tube is rapidly forced through the esophagus into the stomach, sometimes leading to injury, and the huge amount of food being forced into the stomach causes harm in and of itself. Not only does the liver become enlarged, it also malfunctions, so the birds are chronically ill. The ducks are kept in crowded conditions, and their bills, which are rich in nerve endings, are removed with scissors, which causes acute and chronic pain and prevents normal feeding and preening.

When you consider what these birds must endure — and the many other food choices available--it seems that promoting foie gras reflects human indulgence at its worst.”
—Nedim C. Buyukmihci, Veterinarian with 30 years' experience