Becci Gindin-Clarke: Foie gras is a cruel dish better left unserved
By Becci Gindin-Clarke
To some, foie gras represents the ultimate in luxury food. In reality, it is one of the most extreme forms of cruelty still permitted today, and yet it appears on the menus of many of Vancouver’s finest restaurants.
Foie gras is the liver of ducks who have been force-fed with a mechanical pump almost to the point of death. The purpose of this process is to swell the liver up to 10 times its normal size, so that it becomes fatty and extremely rich.
Canadian foie gras comes from Quebec, where 500,000 ducks are killed annually for foie gras. The majority comes from three producers, each of which slaughters in excess of 2,000 ducks each week. In these factory farms, ducks are raised in large, enclosed sheds. Some farms have small, crowded pens in which a few ducks are kept; others restrain each duck in an individual cage.
Two to three times each day, a farm worker goes down the line, grabs each bird, and forces a metal pipe down his throat. A machine pumps a corn-meal mixture directly into the duck’s stomach in only a few seconds. Each duck is force-fed up to one-third of his body weight in food each day. After two weeks, they are slaughtered.
The process of force-feeding enlarges the liver so dramatically that other organs are pushed to the side, making breathing difficult. The ducks must struggle to stand and can barely walk; they have been observed attempting to push themselves forward with their wings when their legs can no longer support their swollen bodies. During the force-feeding process, bills are cracked, tongues are torn, and necks are punctured by the metal feeding tubes.
The Global Action Network’s undercover investigations at Quebec’s foie gras farms have shown ducks vomiting bright-red, bloodstained food from their damaged throats. Necropsied foie gras birds frequently reveal signs of trauma—scarring, lacerations, and bacterial and fungal infections. Not surprisingly, the B.C. SPCA opposes foie gras, describing force-feeding as an “intrusive, stressful and painful experience”.
Why would anybody defend this wholly unnecessary “delicacy”?
Sixteen countries have outlawed the practice of force-feeding. Israel, once the world’s fourth-largest producer, banned it in 2005 because of animal welfare concerns. California has passed a law that will ban the production and sale of foie gras by 2012.
Chicago passed a nearly unanimous ban on the sale of foie gras which was repealed two years later through some sneaky political maneuvering. How would such a ban fare in Vancouver? Are our politicians willing to take a stand and stick to it like California, or would they wimp out like Chicago? The NPA-heavy council voted to ban rodeos in Vancouver. Is the current Vision Vancouver-led council going to be more or less progressive on animal welfare issues?
At Liberation B.C., we are hopeful that positive change will come about in Vancouver under Mayor Gregor Robertson’s leadership. We have been engaging the public and collecting petition signatures in favour of a ban on the sale of foie gras, and the support we’ve received has been overwhelming.
Becci Gindin-Clarke is a director of Liberation B.C.