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Animal rights outcry forces foie gras industry to come to accept changes

Force Feeding 'not very romantic'

“Of course gavage is not very romantic and so we avoided talking about it. But now we are trying to explain it more and more,” Pe said.

As part of its transparency drive, CIFOG recently showcased a farm in the southwestern region of Gers run by Pierre Peres and his twin brother, who force-feed nearly 9,000 ducks a year.

Considered an artisanal farm, it is far from typical industrial production.

At the Peres farm, ducks are kept in enclosed areas but are free to move around. Force-feeding is done individually, with feeders picking up the animals and placing them on their laps to insert a funnel in their throats.

At the start of the gavage period, which normally lasts 15 days, the ducks are fed 250 grams of maize and the quantity is slowly increased to double that at the end.

There are about 1,500 such artisanal foie gras farms in France — but they are hardly the norm.

The vast majority of producers, about 5,000, are industrial sites that are the main target of animal rights groups.

A visit to an industrial foie gras farm run by the Euralis group reveals a different world altogether from the Peres farm.

A thousand ducks are force-fed there, bundled in tight cages housing three birds each.

The cages are raised to human height to make the task of feeding easier for workers. The floor below is a stinking mess, with a flowing yellow river of droppings and duck fat.

In one cage several animals are clearly injured and bleeding. In another, one duck lies dead.

Xavier Fernandez, a researcher at the Institute of Agronomical Research in the southern city of Toulouse, admitted the images can be “shocking” but said visitors should “distance themselves emotionally” from what they see.

“Force feeding is no more shocking than any other method of animal husbandry,” he said.

“The real question eventually is whether we should be rearing animals for human consumption at all?”

For most in France, there seems to be little doubt, even when it comes to foie gras.

An Opinionway poll in late November found that only 29 percent of the French refuse to buy foie gras for ethical reasons and that 55 percent want force-feeding to continue.

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