Becci Gindin-Clarke: Foie gras is a cruel dish better left unserved

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      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.




      Jan 14, 2009 at 7:36pm

      Well-written and well-thought-out. A very nice article about this troubling and sad dish. Thanks for posting it!


      Jan 14, 2009 at 7:38pm

      Foie gras is so cruel I can't believe we still allow this to be sold in our country! I don't see why Gregor Robertson's council would not ban this ridiculous product. Who would want to defend torturing ducks with metal pipes?


      Jan 14, 2009 at 10:18pm

      Thank you for a liberating article. The animals deserve better and people need to make more humane choices !


      Jan 14, 2009 at 10:59pm

      Excellent article, we need more reality of animal cruelty like this one. Maybe people that read this article who thought ignorance was bliss will think next time and open their eyes to the cruelty. One of the biggest things we can do for going 'green' is to stop this horror!


      Jan 15, 2009 at 6:16am

      Good article. Thank you for bringing awareness of this cruelty to those who still aren't aware. I hope to see Vancouver following in the footsteps of these other places that have banned this barbaric and unnecessary product.


      Jan 15, 2009 at 8:41am

      Very well written and informative article.Now,after reading this,how could anyone decide it is ok to eat this cruel and inhumane 'delicasy'? If the term "you are what you eat" is true,then the people who choose to injest foie gras are pro-violence people who choose their body as a burial ground for these poor,suffering birds.

      Miranda Nelson

      Jan 15, 2009 at 10:33am

      "Israel, once the world’s fourth-largest producer, banned it in 2005 because of animal welfare concerns."

      I'm glad to see Israel is adopting such a progressive policy towards animal-rights concerns. I'm sure the 1000+ Palestinians that have been killed in the last month by Israeli forces will be very glad that no one in the area is eating duck liver.


      Jan 15, 2009 at 11:21am

      interesting read. had no idea. thanks.

      Amanda Daniell

      Jan 15, 2009 at 11:40am

      It is amazing to me that our Vancouver chef's have the incredible lack of compassion to use anything they consider a delicacy. Where is their sense of morals, ethics or even humanity?


      Jan 15, 2009 at 12:52pm

      Thanks for raising awareness on this issue.

      After reading how this product is produced I wonder if anyone could still eat it?

      I know I couldn't.