The stages in a short life
Once hatched, life or death is decided by gender
The ducks’ lives begin in a hatchery. Once hatched, the ducklings are divided on a production line according to their gender. Female ducklings are useless in the production of fatty liver as their livers do not grow as fast as those of male ducks, reducing their profitability. These ducklings are then separated from the males and either sliced to death by rotating blades, or gassed.
The nightmare begins: Webs on wires
The ducks forced into Foie Gras production can never fulfil their natural needs like those that live as nature intended, on ponds, lakes and rivers. At the age of nine weeks, these babies begin their life of horror, force fed and wedged into small cages. There is no space for the ducks to even turn around, let alone water for bathing, an intrinsic need of these animals. Although it varies, often the birds are caged with two or three others in a tiny space. Even if they are caged singly, the cage only reaches to the top of their body – there is no space at all, and birds often have their wings broken as a result. The cage floors consist of wire mesh which means that the birds sensitive webbed feet break out with bloody, painful ulcers. The life of the bird from now on is a life of fear, abuse, stress and pain.
The agony of force feeding
Ducks used for producing Foie Gras are force-fed twice a day, each time having a tube violently stuffed down their throats through which they receive 800 grams of feed within the space of two seconds. The process causes constant throat injuries, with many animals even suffocating when the tube is inserted into the trachea instead of the oesophagus, as a result of the fast-paced assembly line.
The animals get fed with a mixture of concentrated feed, maize and Polenta. Salt is also added to the feed to encourage the birds to drink more. The intake of food becomes an agony, and the liver begins turning into the diseased organ that is Foie Gras.
Antibiotics are routine
When the birds begin the force-feeding cycle, they suffer from fevers which are treated with antibiotics. One Hungarian duck farmer told us that without a continuous dose of the antibiotic Amoxiollin during the initial force feeding phase, few animals would survive.
Two weeks of torture
In the two weeks that the birds are force-fed, they get very sick. The mortality rate of these birds is up to 20 times higher than birds that are not force-fed. The most common causes of death are internal bleeding, cardiac infarction and suffocation. As if that were not enough, the birds also suffer other injuries – cut beaks, wings and faces. As a result of the ammonia that is given off by the liquid manure that piles up under the cages, the birds suffer permanently suppurating eyes.
When the force-feeding cycle comes to an end, the vast halls holding the ducks are silent. Unable to move and barely able to breathe as a result of their horribly swollen livers, the animals are incapable of making any noise, their beaks are half-opened, as they struggle for every breath. Every movement, every pressure, can now cause death.
Those who survive, go to slaughter
After 14 days and 28 force feedings, the typical liver has grown to ten times its normal weight. The birds are brought to the slaughterhouse in trucks where hundreds of suffering and dying birds are stacked on top of each other. Many animals don’t survive the transport. According to the information provided by a Hungarian duck farmer, up to 70 percent of the ducks die during transport.
In the slaughterhouse: Many birds are not even stunned properly before being slaughtered due to the pressure to save time. The only thing that matters is the enormous liver, which often weighs up to a Kilogramme. A healthy duck liver should weigh 70 grammes. The meat of these tortured animals is exported to the whole world - mostly unlabelled, meaning that consumers are unable to tell where the product came from.