One of the most important issues society needs to address is how we treat the most vulnerable. Animals used for food are undoubtedly part of this group. In our latest blog, we explore the production of foie gras. Is it really worth it?
Following Brexit, animal welfare has been increasingly on the radar. The Government has stated that the UK will set a good example for the rest of the world to follow. The production of foie gras, an expensive ‘luxury’ food, has been banned in the UK for two decades as it is unnecessarily cruel. However, the import and sale of foie gras are still legal. The UK currently imports and sells approximately 200 tonnes each year. This means tens of millions of birds are still subject to these awful practices for UK consumption.
Why is Foie Gras a Problem?
Foie gras is made from the liver of a duck or a goose and is eaten as a delicacy in the UK and many other countries. The production of foie gras involves artificially fattening the animals by force-feeding up to three times a day. A plastic or metal tube is inserted down their throat into their stomach, and most birds are also often kept in tiny wire cages, unable cannot stand, turn or flap their wings.
This process induces a disease called fatty liver, where the liver grows up to ten times its natural size due to the birds overfeeding. As a result, birds can have difficulties with moving, drinking, and breathing, as well as circulatory issues. It can also lead to a painful death at rates much higher than birds who aren’t force-fed. The physical and mental distress that they suffer is evident.
Humans do not need foie gras for nutrition and it cannot be made without inflicting suffering on the birds. Many animal organisations and advocates are calling for this outdated practice to end. Whilst the production of foie gras is banned, the UK still contributes to the miserable lives of the birds involved by freely allowing its importation and sale. Is this freedom really worth the cost of so much suffering?
Outsourcing Animal Suffering
The UK Government recently stated that they would ban fois gras importation to ‘lead the way’ and ‘improve the welfare and conservation of animals at home and abroad. However, they now appear to be backtracking. One argument made by an MP is that banning people from buying foie gras and fur would not improve animal welfare in the UK.
But why should we only aim to prevent animal suffering at home? After all, for the animals involved it doesn’t matter whether they suffered here or elsewhere. And the vast majority of people seem to agree – UK polls show overwhelming majority support for a full ban of fois gras and consigning this inhumane practice to the history books.
If we truly want to lead the way, we should extend our ethical values to products bought from overseas. As a society, we can choose not to support such practices. An import ban would mean far fewer animals being raised to meet the demand, resulting in less suffering for countless birds.
What Can You Do to Help?
The easiest thing you can do is to not buy foie gras, wherever you are in the world! Good alternatives are available: there are many tasty vegetable pâté varieties available, made from plant-based products, herbs, and spices. You can also talk to shop owners or restaurants if you find foie gras on sale.
It may also be interesting and useful to explore how other products are produced. All animals used for food, experience some level of suffering, and practices vary in different countries. Furthermore, the production of other non-food animal products, such as fur, causes vast amounts of suffering to over 100 million foxes, rabbits, and other animals every year. Similar to foie gras, fur farming is also banned in the UK, yet freely imported and sold.
If the Government does backtrack on its promise to put an end to foie gras in the UK, there is still hope. We can make a difference by campaigning, raising awareness, and petitioning. And Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland may still be able to enact their own policies.
Darren Talbot, Volunteer