What is foie gras?

Foie gras (french for “fat liver”) is a specialty food made from the engorged liver of a duck or goose. The amount of fat in the bird’s liver at the time it is slaughtered is said to make the liver taste more rich and buttery. It is sold either as a whole liver or prepared into a pâté, parfait or mousse.

France is by far the largest producer and consumer of foie gras and it is considered a delicacy in French cuisine. It is also sold in European countries, including the UK, as well as the U.S and China.

How is foie gras made?

To produce this expensive delicacy, the liver of the duck or goose must be specially fattened in time for slaughter in a process known as ‘gavage’.

Every year in France, over 40 million ducks are forced into cages so small they can’t even stretch their wings. Trapped and helpless, a metal tube is thrust down their throats and vast quantities of food are forcibly pumped into their stomachs so that their livers swell painfully to up to ten times their natural size. There is no escape and no respite.

Birds in the foie gras industry are kept in tiny metal cages, or crowded sheds where disease and injury run rife. Ducks are force-fed twice a day by having a pipe rammed down their throat for around 12 days. Geese will have to endure this three times a day for around 17 days. Their oversized livers push on other organs causing many birds to have trouble even standing or breathing. Once their livers reach a sufficient size, the birds are typically slaughtered at 100 days for ducks and geese at 112 days (Viva!, 2014).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The suffering of these birds is so extreme it would be illegal in this country. However, free trade laws mean that every year we import tonnes of these diseased livers, marketed as an expensive delicacy. Britain is a driving force behind this cruel industry.

For the millions of little female ducklings born in France another horror awaits. Only male duck livers are used, and therefore all female ducklings are tossed alive into electric mincers at just a few days old to suffer a violent and horrific death – their only crime is they don’t put on weight as quickly as their brothers.

Foie gras free Britain

The pain and suffering caused by foie-gras production has no place in a civilised society. Our aim is simple – to make Britain a foie gras free zone.

A number of countries and jurisdictions have outlawed force-feeding, and the production, import or sale of Foie-gras.

Foie gras is illegal to produce in the UK due to the horrendous nature of its production, but it is not illegal to import it or sell it. Due to pressure from animal rights groups and the general public, major supermarkets in the UK no longer sell foie gras. However, it is still imported and sold in some high-end restaurants and certain upmarket online stores and supermarkets.

Viva! and other animal rights groups continue to call for a complete ban on the importation of foie gras into the UK to stop the demand for this cruel trade.

We have mounted high profile campaigns against companies to demand that they stop selling foie gras, and we continue to campaign against this horrific practice.

Take action today

Ongoing campaigns

worker force feeding a duck at a foie gras farm
Tell Gordon Ramsey to dump foie gras

In 2013 Viva!’s joint investigation with French group, L214 exposed suffering on an almost unimaginable scale on French foie gras farms. At the centre of our investigation were farms supplying celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay’s, restaurants.

Find out more

Ebay, Don’t Auction Off Cruelty!

Ebay, one of the world’s largest online auction sites, still refuses to drop foie gras, and continues to sell a product in the UK that no other major supermarket will touch.

Find out more

High-end cruelty at UK luxury stores
harrods store

Luxury stores Fortnum & Mason and Harrods continue to continues to sell foie gras, either from tortured ducks or geese.

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Successful Campaigns

Amazon Victory!

Find out more

After sustained pressure from Viva! and our supporters, in 2008 Amazon stopped selling foie gras and banned it from being sold on their UK website!

Check out our national coverage in the Daily Mail.

This came after a national campaign including a petition which gained over 10,000 signatures – proof that people power works!

Victory! Heston says ‘au revoir’ to foie gras

Find out more

After being exposed to horrendous footage of ducks kept for foie gras from our joint investigation with group L214, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal took the ethical decision to remove foie gras from all his menus – both in the UK and Australia in 2014. This came after years of campaigning by Viva! to educate chefs and the public about the way foie-gras is produced.

Viva! supporters sent thousands of postcards and online messages to Mr Blumenthal reminding him that there is no such thing as ethical foie-gras – and anyone trying to produce it in the UK would be liable to find themselves prosecuted for animal cruelty. Viva! and our supporters also contacted British supermarket Waitrose, which – although it refuses to sell foie-gras on ethical grounds – was fronted by Mr Blumenthal. This success came after we also persuaded online giant Amazon to dump foie-gras in 2013.

Viva!’s campaign manager at the time, Justin Kerswell, said: “We are delighted that Heston has dumped foie-gras. It is an important ethical decision and other celebrity chefs should take note. We reminded him that there is no such thing as one bad apple in foie-gras production. It is an industry that is rotten to the core and the finished pâté is only possible with cruelty so extreme that it would be illegal in the UK. It is the product of torture, with mostly caged ducks and geese feed so much grain that their livers expand by up to ten times their natural size.

“Viva! are calling on all other chefs across Britain to follow Heston’s lead and for the public to do their bit by not consuming foie-gras and boycott places that persist in selling it.”

Success in California

Find out more

In 2004, Viva! USA was instrumental in getting a bill passed that banned the force feeding of ducks and geese in the production of foie gras in California.

The bill also banned the sale of the product, if it was produced by force-feeding birds. This took effect in California in 2012.

However, Viva! persuaded the state of California to pass legislation outlawing both the production and selling of foie-gras after recognising the barbaric methods employed in its production. After an appeal by Paul McCartney, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the ban into law, conceding that foie gras production is unacceptably cruel.

Ban foie gras from cookery shows

BBC’s Great British Menu

In 2012, the BBC received hundreds of complaints when two chefs on the BBC cooking programme ‘Great British Menu’ made recipes containing foie gras. Despite the production of foie gras being illegal in the UK due to the cruelty it inflicts, the BBC still thought it was acceptable to promote it as part of responsible public service broadcasting.

We let the BBC know what we thought about it and encouraged supporters to write to the BBC and complain.

As a result of public pressure, to our knowledge, the BBC no longer promotes or shows foie gras on their cooking programmes, or on any of their websites. It just goes to show the power of people like you, speaking up against cruelty!

How you can create a foie gras free Britain

We can all play our part in decreasing the demand for foie gras and working to end the suffering of the millions of birds still subjected to this torture.

foie gras leaflets
Raise Awareness
  • Don’t eat foie gras! Raise awareness by telling your friends, family and work/school mates not to eat it either! Go vegan – start today!
  • Sign and share the petition to Ban the Importation of Foie Gras into the UK
  • Order our foie gras leaflets. Spread the word in your area by door-dropping our leaflets highlighting the cruel reality of the foie gras industry. This is particularly powerful if a local business is selling foie gras
local newspaper
Write to your local newspaper

Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). A ‘letter to editor’ to your local newspaper can be very persuasive. It is more likely to get printed if it concerns a local business.

Find out the email address of the editor or editorial department and send them an email or letter.

See our sample letter below.

Sample letter:

Dear xxx,

I am very disappointed to see that a local business – [add the name of the restaurant or shop selling foie-gras here] is selling foie gras.

Foie gras is the grossly enlarged liver of a duck or goose and is essentially a disease, marketed as a delicacy. Birds raised for this ‘gourmet’ cruelty are force-fed enormous quantities of food through a long metal pipe, three times a day. This process of deliberate and painful overfeeding continues for up to a month by which time the birds’ livers have swelled to ten times their normal size. Every year, around a million ducks die during this period of force-feeding.

Foie-gras is not produced in Britain, as the Government has made it clear that its production would contravene existing animal welfare regulations, but sadly it is still perfectly legal to import it.

Local people also have the power to end the sale of foie gras by not visiting establishments which sell this barbaric ‘delicacy’.

Of course, eating any animal causes suffering – the best way of stopping cruelty is to go vegan.

For more information on how to go vegan, visit viva.org.uk

Yours sincerely,

 

[Enter name]

local council
Contact your local councillor

If you know that foie gras is being served in your local area, ask your local councillor to declare your local area ‘foie gras-free’.

See our sample letter below.

Sample letter:

Dear Councillor [enter name]

As a local person, I urge you to follow the lead of York and Bath where the local councils  have declared that all council buildings are foie gras free zones and encouraged local businesses to ditch this ‘torture in a tin’.

I am very disappointed that foie-gras is freely for sale in my local area and I urge you to take this opportunity to make an ethical decision and vote for animal welfare.

Foie-gras is the grossly enlarged liver of a duck or goose and is essentially a disease, marketed as a delicacy. Birds raised for this ‘gourmet’ cruelty are force-fed enormous quantities of food through a long metal pipe, three times a day. This process of deliberate and painful overfeeding continues for up to a month by which time the birds’ livers have swelled to ten times their normal size. Force feeding results in the premature deaths of around 1 million birds in France every year.

Foie-gras is not produced in Britain, as the Government has made it clear that its production would contravene existing animal welfare regulations, but sadly it is still perfectly legal to import it. Even the previous Government minister responsible for animal welfare, Ben Bradshaw, encouraged a consumer boycott. Its production has been outlawed in Poland, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Israel. It will soon be banned in the State of California.

Public opinion is very much against the sale of foie gras. All  major UK supermarket chains and the world’s largest online retailer – Amazon – have already taken foie gras off their shelves. I would implore you to join them in making a stand against this horrendous practice.

Yours sincerely,

[Enter name]

writing
Write to George Eustice MP

Ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, to ban foie-gras imports to the UK.

See our sample letter below.

Sample letter and contact details

George Eustice

Minister of State for Agriculture and Food

Defra

Nobel House

17 Smith Square

London SW1P 3JR

Email:  george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk

https://members.parliament.uk/member/3934/contact

 

Example text:

“Dear George Eustice,

I was shocked to discover that despite being illegal to produce in Britain because of cruelty, it is legal to import foie-gras into this country. Surely that makes a mockery of our sovereign welfare laws?

Foie-gras is the grossly enlarged liver of a duck or goose and is essentially a disease, marketed as a delicacy. Birds raised for this ‘gourmet’ cruelty are force-fed enormous quantities of food through a long metal pipe, three times a day. This process of deliberate and painful overfeeding continues for up to a month by which time the birds’ livers have swelled to ten times their normal size. Every year, over 40 million ducks are killed for foie gras production in France. It is so violent that many die during this period of force-feeding.

This is not a small problem. Britain imports more foie gras from France than Germany, Italy or Holland.

I understand that the Government says that trade laws stop a ban on importation being considered. However, in a post-Brexit Britain, I urge you to look at this urgently and take action to make Britain foie gras free.

Yours faithfully”

 

[Enter name]

write a review
Take local action
  •  Contact your local restaurant or shop to ask them to stop selling foie gras
  • Write a negative review of the restaurant or shop on TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, or social media explaining will no longer dine with them or buy from them

Sample letter and review below.

Sample letter

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’m writing to you regarding your restaurant selling foie-gras. As someone who had considered dining with you for an upcoming celebration, I have decided to make a reservation elsewhere due to the inclusion of foie gras on your menu.

Despite the fact that production of foie-gras is considered too extreme to produce in the UK, it remains a feature of so-called ‘fine dining’ and promoted as a ‘luxury’ item in establishments such as yours. Unfortunately, our free trade laws mean that imports allow for these diseased livers, marketed as an expensive delicacy, to reach our shores – something Viva! has campaigned against for decades.

Every year in France, over 40 million ducks are forced into cages so small they can’t even stretch their wings. Trapped and helpless, a metal tube is thrust down their throats and vast quantities of food are forcibly pumped into their stomachs so that their livers swell painfully to up to 10 times their natural size. There is no escape and no respite. More than 110,000 people recently signed a petition to parliament to make Britain foie-gras free!

 

Yours Faithfully,

Sample review

Being a local resident I have heard many positive things about your menu. However, upon finding out that you serve foie-gras, I will never eat at your restaurant and will advise those I know to do the same. Foie-gras is produced via a barbaric process which involves force-feeding ducks and geese until their livers are ten times the size than is natural. It is torture for these poor animals. The majority of restaurants/shops in the UK will no longer sell it for this reason. Until you do the same I am sorry to say that I will be boycotting your restaurant/shop and will encourage others to do the same.”

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