Warning: this video may put you off foie gras forever

At least that's what a French animal rights organization is hoping once viewers see how young ducklings are killed in a masher after failing to make the grade for the delicacy. The images may shock some viewers.

Warning: this video may put you off foie gras forever
Photo: L214

Shocking video footage filmed secretly inside a duck hatchery in France is promising to reignite the debate around the ethnics of eating foie gras.

A recent survey showed the French are still in love with foie gras at Christmas time, but the video footage taken by organisation L214 might change a few minds.

The images claim to show how males and female ducklings are separated on the first day of their lives, before the male birds have their beaks snipped by white hot metal.

The ducklings are then seen being packed on to a carousel with flashes of flames every few seconds as the beaks are apparently snipped.

In the most disturbing scene the females are apparently killed in a giant masher, although many continue to show signs of life once they come out the other side.

The video which readers may find distressing is below.

“We want consumers in France to know exactly what happens in the process of making foie gras,” L214’s founder Sébastian Arsac told The Local. “After that it’s up to them what they do.”

Foie gras is made from the fattened liver of ducks and geese.

The organization L214 has long highlighted the controversial process of gavage – or force feeding – that goes into making the product.

But with the new images, filmed by an employee at the hatchery in the Pays de la Loire region, the organization wanted to highlight part of the process that consumers may not have known about.

The beaks of the ducks are snipped to avoid them injuring each other during their short time in the hatchery.

According to L214, the male ducklings are kept inside for 40 days, then allowed outside for a similar time. The force feeding then begins after 80 days, with each duckling fed twice a day for 12 days, before being sent to the abattoir.

They will take in around a kilo at a time or around 25 percent of their body weight, the organisation claims.

“We wanted to show how female ducklings end up in the masher on the first day of their lives,” he said.

“On the day the images were taken, 6,000 of them were killed. And it’s simply because their livers are a little bit smaller than the males and therefore don’t make as a good foie gras.

“We treat animals like waste products.”

The images, first published by Le Point news site, come at a time of year when the French are gobbling foie gras by the kilo.

Surveys produced this week showed the controversial delicacy, whose production is banned in many countries, is the nation’s favourite Christmas dish.

“Three quarters of all foie-gras is made in France, and three quarters of all foie-gras made is consumed in France,” said Arsac.

“We understand that it’s a product that has a strong place in French culture. Many French people don’t actually want to eat it but there is a certain social pressure that makes it hard to say no.

“The foie-gras industry is also very powerful, but the way it is advertised on television makes it look like it grows on trees.”

“After viewing these images you can make you mind up in a few seconds as to whether this pleasure is right.”

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Ban ‘barbaric’ French foie gras, Danish politicians urge EU

Danish left-wing party SF (Socialist People’s Party) wants a debate on whether it should be legal to produce and sell French delicacy foie gras in the EU.

Ban 'barbaric' French foie gras, Danish politicians urge EU
File photo: Benoit Tessier / Reuters / Ritzau Scanpix

The party, a parliamentary ally of the governing Social Democrats, wants foie gras banned in the European Union and has called its production “barbaric”.

“It is one of the most barbaric ways food can be produced. These birds are treated very badly, and we don’t think it’s okay,” SF spokesperson on food Carl Valentin said.

“Danes have actually already morally rejected this to a large extent. Consumption is falling fast [in Denmark, ed.] and production is already illegal in Denmark. That’s why we’re focusing on this issue,” Valentin continued.

Discussion of the matter by politicians follows a decision by management at Torvehallerne, an upscale food market in Copenhagen, to recommend its concession holders not to sell the French dish, a paté made from the livers of geese or ducks.

Torvehallerne made the decision after customers posted complaints on its Facebook page over the sale of foie gras at Ma Poule, a stand at the market which sells French specialities.

Although production of the delicacy is banned in Denmark, importing it is not, as such a ban is prevented by European Single Market laws.

Foie gras production involves overfeeding geese and duck for the last two weeks before they are slaughtered. This causes them to develop fatty liver disease, with the organ expanding to six to ten times its normal size, according to Danish animal welfare charity Dyrenes Beskyttelse.

90 percent of foie gras now comes from geese, rather than duck, which was previously the preferred bird, according to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA). Although the majority of production is in France, the foodstuff is also made in Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary.

EU rules do forbid foie gras from being produced in places where it has not previously been made, according to the DVFA website.

Valentin said he wanted the union to outlaw what he termed a “dish for the upper classes”.

“The reason I mention the upper class is that this is very much a dish for the upper classes. I think it’s sad that there’s so little focus on animal welfare and more thought goes to pleasing taste buds than protecting animals,” the SF spokesperson said.

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