At first light he hears the door slam in the distance, an icy blast rattles the inside of the cavernous shed and then begins a familiar, terrifying noise: the shrieks of other ducks and the repeated whoosh of a pneumatic pump.
The noise and the clamour get nearer but this little white duck can't run or fly away – in fact he can barely move. His feathers are stiff, filthy and matted from yesterday's vomit and he is held firmly in a tiny cage as tight as a coffin – one of many stretching almost as far as the eye can see. There are hundreds more like him, row after row of young male ducks, their heads poking out through the wire to facilitate the routine of abuse.
And then it happens! With practiced brutality, a gloved hand grabs his head, a long metal tube is forced down his throat and a ridiculous amount of boiled corn with fat is pumped into his stomach in seconds. Not force-feeding but gavageto the French.
The little white duck pants heavily because his distended stomach makes it hard to breathe and he tries to shake the spilled yellow muck from his eyes. If he's lucky, his throat won't have been ripped and he won't die in agony as the crumpled bird in the cage next to him did – just one of a million in France who die this agonising way each year.
But it's not all over as the torture will happen again in the afternoon and will be repeated twice-daily until his liver is sufficiently diseased – has swollen to ten-times its normal size and can be called foie-gras.
No wonder Viva!coined the term 'torture in a tin' to describe this 'luxury.' No wonder we have exposed our Government's hypocrisy over foie-gras – they say they will prosecute anyone who produces it in Britain yet allow its importation. Quoting 'trade rules' is a cop out for they could act if they had the will.
France has no qualms at all about its annual 38 million foie-gras ducks and has cemented this tor t ure into its 'historical heritage'. A similar number of females are slaughtered as ducklings simply because they don't put on weight as quickly as their brothers, often being tossed alive into mincing machines. Now joining the bid for the palate of the decadent wealthy is Hungary and China, who are ramping up their production of foie-gras.
It is hard for a comparatively small organisation such as Viva! to take on the world but we have been doing so for nearly a decade now and not without success. We were the driving force behind the ban earlier this year on selling foie-gras in California – the world's fifth largest economy!
At home, we have distributed hundreds of thousands of leaflets thanks to you. We and our supporters have held peaceful demos across the UK and contacted innumerable retailers with our ironically-titled DVD –The Wonderful World of Gavage. Makro, Lidl, House of Fraser, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and countless smaller delicatessens and restaurants have dumped it as a result. We have even secured the backing of Prince Charles.
We have been successfully fighting this cruel trade on three fronts: persuading retailers to drop foie-gras; educating consumers not to buy it; and campaigning to secure a ban on imports. The national headlines we've generated have sparked a debate which we are winning hands down.
Those continuing to sell foie-gras do so with embarrassment but Christmas, the time of indulgence, is when they think they can reinvigorate t heir vile trade. We intend to stop them! The successes we've achieved have exhausted our campaign materials and we need to reprint them so we can continue our fight for a foie-gras free Britain. We need to provide our army of door droppers with something to deliver; we need to reproduce hundreds of copies of our extraordinarily persuasive DVD and distribute them to restaurateurs who still haven't got the mess age; and we need to keep up with developments on the Continent and try to obtain new footage.
I know you've heard it all before but it does all cost money – but you also know that we use your donations to successfully fight for the animals. Although times are hard, the suffering continues unless the Viva!s of this world fight to end it – and that is why we need your help. Any donation will be gratefully received and will enable us to offer hope to those millions of caged and terrified ducks.
Order our door-dropper leaflets or action pack and get active for foie-gras ducks today! And please send whatever you can aff ord so you are part of our fight to end suffering this Christmas. A sincere thank you.
Yours for the animals
Juliet Gellatley, founder and director