The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) claimed there were a number of issues across all stages of foie gras production. During the final stages of raising, when they are about 12 weeks old, the animals are force-fed twice a day with increasing amounts of energy-rich food for 12 to 15 days.
Issues that were highlighted within the Animal Welfare Journal included poor housing conditions and injuries received during handling. Welfare concerns were also raised, including a lack of access to open water for bathing and a fear or humans. As the birds matured, it was found that their physical condition deteriorated.
“Should foie gras production without force feeding become possible, duck livers should not reach a weight at which there are pathological effects,” said Dr Irene Rochlitz, who carried out the review, entitled The Welfare of Ducks During Foie Gras Production, with Professor Don Broom at the Animal Welfare Information Service in the University of Cambridge.
“In order to prevent the accumulation of toxic substances and other adverse effects on welfare due to liver malfunction, maximum liver weights should be specified and based on scientific studies. To prevent poor welfare associated with inadequate housing and management, limits should be established for the occurrence of welfare indicators such as wing fractures, body lesions, gait abnormalities and contact dermatitis, with the birds being checked prior to and/or after slaughter.”
Foie gras production is banned in a number of European countries, although many are able to import it. For it to be named so, a minimum liver weight of 300g net weight in ducks and 400g in geese must be achieved, according to the UFAW report.