Foie Gras

The photo above is of a Moulard duck rescued from the foie gras industry (photo credit Farm Sanctuary)

Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is the unnaturally fattened liver of a duck (or, less commonly, a goose). It is produced by force feeding ducks so that their livers grow from six to ten times the normal size. Images of these birds hanging featherless after slaughter show bulging livers that take up the majority of their lower half.

Ducks used for foie gras are generally all males. The female duck’s liver doesn’t grow as well as the male’s, so it is most profitable to raise only males. Female ducklings are destroyed or sold to duck meat farms overseas. This use of males is a break from what generally happens in animal agriculture, where more often than not male animals have little or no value.

While the practice of force feeding birds has been with us for thousands of years, our modern view of foie gras as a delicacy likely comes from its connection to French cuisine. Because dishes such as foie gras appear on the menus of fancy, expensive restaurants, we collectively come to regard them as desirable.

Growing Public Awareness

Because of the work of animal rights groups in targeting foie gras and publicizing their methods, which include inserting a feeding tube down the bird’s throat, the general public is aware that there is “something bad” about foie gras. A number of countries and jurisdictions have laws against the production, import, and sale of foie gras. New Hampshire has no such laws. In many places foie gras laws and bans face ongoing opposition and sometimes get overturned.

The “Humane Foie Gras” Myth

Defenders of foie gras point to the anatomy of ducks in arguing that the force feeding is not inhumane. They point out that unlike humans ducks do not have a “gag reflex,” and for this reason claim that the birds are not bothered by having a tube inserted down their throat. The second defense is that the birds are predisposed to “gorge” as normal pre-migration behavior. Yet an undercover investigation carried out at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a self-proclaimed “humane foie gras” operation in Ferndale, New York, revealed injured and dead birds, as well as workers talking about the number of birds who die during force feeding.

“Sometimes the duck doesn’t get up, and it dies”

A Hudson Valley Foie Gras worker explains, while demonstrating the force feeding process to a new employee
Oversized livers push against nearby organs, including the lungs, which can make it difficult for a bird to breathe. Arguments about whether or not the ducks suffer and to what extent miss the point, as summed up by Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the United States when he argued in favor of the California foie gras ban:

“Is a soft rubber tube better than a hard tube? Maybe, but you are missing the point. You are still forcing them to eat more than they would ever eat voluntarily and inducing a state of disease.”

Paul Shapiro, Humane Society of the U.S.

New Hampshire Restaurants Serving Foie Gras

Various New Hampshire restaurants have served foie gras at one time or another. As of June 2021, New Hampshire Animal Rights League is aware of three restaurants that serve foie gras:

Note: At The Foundry in Manchester, foie gras is no longer on the menu. When asked about the decision, the General Manager wrote, “We decided not to have it on the menu anymore due to non sale and too much waste on product.”

What You Can Do

  • Avoid restaurants that serve foie gras. Consider contacting the restaurant and expressing your concern.
  • Educate friends and family about the cruelty behind foie gras.