July 16, 2013
California's 2012 Ban on Force-Feeding for Foie Gras
Foie gras, which is French for "fatty liver," is the diseased and enlarged liver of a duck or goose, produced through force-feeding.
Each day for several weeks, a pipe is shoved down the birds' throats to force-feed them. As a result, the birds' livers, diseased with hepatic lipidosis, grow up to 10 times their normal size. The livers are then sold as foie gras.
The history of force-feeding in California
In 2004, California banned the "force feed[ing of] a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird's liver beyond normal size." Then-Senator John Burton—now chairman of the California Democratic Party—championed the law, which took effect July 1, 2012.
Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras—the only foie gras producer in the state—supported the prohibition because the law allowed for ample time to find an alternative to force-feeding. Company owner Guillermo Gonzalez wrote in 2004, "I have the moral stature to accept that if within the seven and a half years established by S.B. 1520, science and government don't arrive to the conclusion that the methods used in our foie gras production are acceptable...I will be ready to quit."
Disease, stress, pain, and mortality
Behavioral evidence suggests ducks and geese experience fear, as well as acute and chronic stress from the multiple daily force-feedings and the pain associated with them.
Force-feeding causes a number of injuries: bruising or perforation of the esophagus; hemorrhaging and inflammation of the neck resulting from the repeated insertion of the pipe into the throat; and asphyxia caused by food improperly forced into the trachea. Wounds of the esophagus may subsequently become infected. Force-feeding also results in numerous illnesses and disease, including hepatic lipidosis, bacterial and fungal infections, malnourishment, and lameness.
For these reasons, mortality rates for force-feed ducks are 10 to 20 times higher than those for non-force fed ducks.
"The force feeding of ducks and geese for the production of foie gras is a cruel and inhumane practice that should be banned." —Dr. Ian J.H. Duncan, Emeritus Chair in Animal Welfare, University of Guelph
The science is clear
Video footage of force-feeding
Due to the animal cruelty involved, more than a dozen countries—including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel (formerly the world's fourth-largest foie gras producer), Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Argentina—have either outright prohibited force-feeding for foie gras production or have interpreted it as illegal under existing anti-cruelty laws.
According to a 2004 Zogby poll, 77 percent of U.S. adults believe the process of force-feeding ducks or geese to produce foie gras should be banned.
In California, well over 95 percent of restaurants do not serve foie gras. Several cities throughout California have passed resolutions condemning foie gras, including: San Diego, San Francisco, Berkeley, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, Carlsbad, Solana Beach, and Laguna Woods.
Additionally, several restaurants and retailers—such as Costco, Safeway, Target, Giant Eagle, Whole Foods Market, and Wolfgang Puck—refuse to sell foie gras.
A coalition of groups including the Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Protection and Rescue League, Mercy for Animals, and Animal Legal Defense Fund support California’s ban on Force-feeding.