Scientists and Experts Statements on Force-Feeding for Foie Gras Production and Animal Welfare

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
This overfeeding will lead to liver enlargement and malfunction, causing chronic metabolic dysfunction and illness. The ducks at this facility, therefore, are being subjected to extremely inhumane conditions causing them to suffer greatly.
— Dr. Nedim C. Buyukmihci, VMD, emeritus professor of veterinary medicine, University of California
[T]here is good evidence that liver structure and function…is severely altered and compromised in force fed ducks and geese. [The Committee] on Animal Health and Animal Welfare concludes that force feeding, as currently practised, is detrimental to the welfare of the birds.
— Europe's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare
“Having studied the process of force-feeding ducks over a 14-year period, including witnessing 2 New York producers, I can state that this process is easily the cruelest form of food animal production. In no other food-producing system do we intentionally create a painful and fatal illness (liver failure) in thousands of suffering animals, whose husbandry includes the infection by pneumonia, liver engorgement to 10-times normal size, inability to walk due to their swollen abdomen, brain damage from liver failure (some birds show seizures while being force-fed,) in addition to the pain of limb fractures and ruptured esophagi from rough handling. There is no need to create and then consume a diseased organ from a suffering duck.”
— Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM
If one looks at the production of foie gras for what it really is—causing a healthy liver to become diseased by forced overfeeding—then eating it could leave a whole different taste in your mouth.
— Dr. Greg Burkett, DVM, board-certified avian specialist
Force-feeding in the foie gras industry is inherently cruel. … This feeding beyond what the ducks would eat normally causes hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, which impairs liver function. Severe liver impairment can lead to conditions like enlargement of the liver, fluid in the abdomen and eventually death.
— Dr. Lorelei Wakefield, VMD
The practice of force feeding amounts of food far beyond the limits of the duck’s need to eat causes pain and suffering. Ducks are highly capable of feeling pain especially in the throat area. They have a gag reflex that would be overcome by the tube insertion, and this would cause distress in the bird.
— Dr. Debra Teachout, DVM, MVS
In my opinion, [force-feeding] is cruel and inhumane, as it involves rough, invasive handling and can result in trauma and injuries to the esophagus. The process overrides the natural system of hunger and satiety and the birds in the video appear to be frightened and distressed—they move immediately away from the handler as soon as they are released.
— Dr. Sara Shields, PhD, animal welfare expert with an emphasis in poultry
[T]he process of force feeding birds in order to deliberately induce a disease state is patently inhumane, causing severe physical pain and psychological distress.
— Dr. Lee Schrader, DVM
It is well-documented that the process of force-feeding these birds inflicts suffering in the form of traumatic injuries to their esophaguses and stomachs as well as severely diseased fatty livers.
— Dr. Armaiti May, DVM, CVA
Most egregious is the fact that the animals are force fed to create the fatty liver constitutive of foie gras. Many people do not realize that veterinary medicine recognizes ‘fatty liver’ as a pathological condition, i.e. a disease.
— Dr. Bernard Rollin, PhD, distinguished professor of animal sciences, Colorado State University
The liver steatosis caused by ‘gavage’ is a pathological process that shows itself first by a fatty degeneration of the hepatic cells and then by necrosis. The fatty liver cannot be seen as normal. It is a categorical sign of a state of illness with clinical symptoms.
— Dr. Marianne Heimann, Veterinary Pathologist
The production of fatty liver for foie gras… raises serious animal welfare issues and it is not a practice that is condoned by FAO.
— The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations
It’s the same as cigarettes, it should carry a health warning so that people know what’s been done to the animal.
— Influential French Chef Albert Roux
I eat meat including ducks on occasion. However, the short tortured lives of ducks raised for foie gras is well outside the norm of farm practice. Having seen the pathology that occurs from foie gras production, I strongly recommend that this process be outlawed.
— Dr. Ward Stone, Senior Wildlife Pathologist, New York Dept of Environmental Conservation
Foie gras is in fact a diseased liver. . . Forced feeding of waterfowl, or food induced hepatic steatosis, leads to pathological changes in the liver which cause undeniable suffering to these animals. The economic goal of the process is to effect the maximum change to this organ in the minimum amount of time in order to maximize profits. It must, however, be ended before the manifestations of degeneration, which are unavoidable beyond a certain point, affect the quality (the powdery texture) of the product or the overall health of the birds. . . . Moreover, at the end of this process the birds are unable to make the slightest exertion, which is the direct opposite of the purpose [of fatty buildup] under natural conditions… There is no comparison between the natural buildup of fats by waterfowl before migration, which occurs in peripheral tissue (50% in the breast area), and the extreme conditions which result from forced feeding.
— French veterinarian Dr. Yvan Beck, in his comprehensive study, "The force-feeding of poultry and the production of foie gras"
My view on the production of foie gras is clear and supported by biological evidence. This practice causes unacceptable suffering to these animals. . . It causes pain during and as a consequence of the force-feeding, feelings of malaise as the body struggles to cope with extreme nutrient imbalance and distress caused by loss of control over the birds’ most basic homeostatic regulation mechanism as their hunger control system is over-ridden.
— Christine Nichol, Professor of Animal Welfare at the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol
[F]orce feeding quickly results in birds that are obese and in a pathological state, called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease. There is no doubt that in this pathological state, the birds will feel very ill. In my view it is completely unethical to deliberately promote a diseased state in an animal. The birds’ obesity will lead to a myriad of other problems from skeletal disorders to difficulties in coping with heat stress and all of which are accompanied by feelings of malaise.
— Dr. Ian Duncan, a poultry welfare expert and professor in Applied Ethology at the University of Guelph in Canada
I believe that the conditions described, under which these birds were kept and the fact that they had been force-fed to create an obese and unhealthy state constitutes unnecessary cruelty… The liver is there to clean out toxins from the blood stream. If the liver can’t work properly, you’ve got all these toxins flowing through the blood, making them feel bad in various ways, so it can harm various organs as well as the brain.
— Dr. Laurie Siperstein-Cook, Avian Veterinarian
Force-feeding ducks and geese up to 4 pounds of mash a day for a ‘delicacy’ causes the animals to suffer from a painful illness that causes their livers to swell up to ten times their normal size. Anyone who eats foie gras is personally responsible for the suffering of these animals. It is up to restaurateurs and consumers to refuse to contribute to this suffering by refusing to eat or serve foie gras.
— Dr. Elliot M. Katz, DVM
I have several professional concerns about the methods used to raise these birds... although these animals have a genetic predisposition to store larger amounts of fat in their liver, they do so for the specific purpose of preparing to migrate. The birds in the industry do not migrate and do not presumably receive the external environmental cues that would normally signal them to begin to eat more than usual. In addition to this, under natural situations, the birds eat a particular amount voluntarily. In light of that, it is a false statement that the techniques the industry uses is simply mimicking a natural behavior. Despite the misrepresentation of the industry using natural techniques, force-feeding in itself can cause significant discomfort.
— Dr. Emily Levine, Veterinarian & Ethology Expert
Force-feeding is by all accounts a cruel way of raising an animal... the liver is made incapable of functioning, thus becoming excessively fatty and smooth.
— Hrayr Berberoglu, Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage
Does foie gras amount to cruel and unusual punishment? — with an absolute yes.

The birds do suffer during the feeding process. A stomach tube is rapidly forced through the esophagus into the stomach, sometimes leading to injury, and the huge amount of food being forced into the stomach causes harm in and of itself. Not only does the liver become enlarged, it also malfunctions, so the birds are chronically ill. The ducks are kept in crowded conditions, and their bills, which are rich in nerve endings, are removed with scissors, which causes acute and chronic pain and prevents normal feeding and preening.

When you consider what these birds must endure — and the many other food choices available—it seems that promoting foie gras reflects human indulgence at its worst.
— Nedim C. Buyukmihci, Veterinarian with 30 years' experience
We’ve all read claims that foie gras production is somehow in line with birds’ natural habits. These claims are certainly not rooted in science. They obscure how far beyond physiologic variations the liver is pathologically enlarged to produce foie gras. They also do not acknowledge that the repetitive, involuntary insertion of a foreign object into an animal’s esophagus is not natural, but rather inherently stressful.
— Dr. Eileen Jefferson, DVM