What is foie gras?
Foie gras is a French delicacy often eating during the holiday season. The words foie gras literally translate to “fatty liver”, due to the way it is made. Ducks and geese are deliberately fattened for several days in order to produce foie gras. Animal rights groups are strongly in favour of banning foie gras production, a step which has been taken in several countries.
The fattening process is known as “gavage”, and has its roots in ancient Egypt, where similar techniques were used to fatten animals. Foie gras spread to ancient Greece and Rome. Over time, Jews migrating to western and central Europe brought the tradition with them. Foie gras gradually became part of French cultural heritage, a status which is even protected by law. In the 1980s, production became industrialized and it became more and more popular among families at Christmas time.
Nowadays, geese and mulard ducks are used to produce foie gras. The animals are force-fed large quantities of corn for around 12 days and then slaughtered. The fattening process is carried out by inserting a 10-inch tube into the birds’ throats. Their livers accumulate so much fat, they swell up to several times their normal size. This condition is a disease known as hepatic steatosis.
Every year, animal rights groups around the world criticise foie gras producers. They cite findings from researchers which show that the force-feeding process is unnecessarily harmful. Organs surrounding the liver are often squashed, while the animals often also suffer from fatigue and diarrhoea.