Why don't supermarket chains wear ducks

Foie gras production

In the production of foie gras, ducks and geese are forcibly pumped porridge into their stomachs. In 2015, the production volume in the EU was almost 24,000 tonnes of foie gras. Despite the prohibition of this excruciating procedure in Germany and some other EU countries, France, Hungary, Belgium, Bulgaria and Spain still operate the darning mast. Foie gras products are also still available on the German market.

The forced feeding

The ducks and geese get a metal tube or hose pushed over the beak and esophagus into the stomach. Within a few seconds, the feed portion of up to 500 g maize porridge is pumped into the stomach either manually or mechanically, e.g. T. additionally enriched with fat.

This procedure is called »stuffing« and takes place two to three times a day. The mechanization of forced feeding means that one person can feed up to 1,000 animals per hour. The ducks are stuffed for 12 to 15 days, geese are stuffed for up to 21 days.

The sensitive beak and throat area of ​​birds is naturally equipped with a gag reflex to prevent fluids from entering the windpipe. Forced feeding ignores this reflex - which the birds find excruciating. Inserting the feeding device into the nerve-traversed beak is excruciating and can result in the formation of knots on the nerve fibers (neuromas) with prolonged pain.

Tormenting procedure

Inserting and withdrawing the metal tube or hose several times a day causes painful injuries or even tears in the esophagus and internal bleeding. Incorrect introduction of the mash into the air instead of into the esophagus can even lead to asphyxiation of the animals.

At the beginning of a feeding period the birds behave excitedly and nervously, after the fifth day of forced feeding they hardly move by themselves. The plumage also changes because the birds can no longer care for their plumage. The normally shiny, soft neck feathers appear puckered and sticky after a few days - a phenomenon known on fattening farms as “wet neck” or “cou mouillé”.

The feeding of the ducks and geese causes severe suffering. The animals show aversions towards the person feeding them and escape behavior. Usually hand-fed animals respond positively to the person who feeds them. Foie gras producers, on the other hand, affirm pain-free production and justify the stuffing procedure with anatomical peculiarities in water birds. For example, by comparing the diets of wild geese, which can eat large fish, they play down the pain, suffering and damage caused by compulsive feeding.

Consequence: fatty liver

At the end of the force-feeding period, the liver is six to ten times enlarged. Their fat content is increased from around 6.6% in normally fed birds to over 55%. This fatty degeneration leads to impairment of the liver function and thus to a pathological condition of the organs.

The animals also suffer from respiratory, kidney and circulatory problems due to the rapid increase in the size of the liver. Due to the weight gain, her legs flex outward, which interferes with normal walking and standing. Even during force feeding, the mortality rate of the birds is ten to twenty times higher than that of normally fed animals. A longer period of constipation beyond the usual two or three weeks would result in death from organ failure.

The attitude

The birds have to stand in low individual cages on wire mesh floors. Their heads protrude from a hole in the front of the cage, making them easy to pack for inserting the pipe or hose. The ducks and geese cannot stand upright, turn around or stretch their wings in the cages. They can still clean their plumage and show exploratory behavior or normal social behavior. In addition, more sternum injuries have been found in caged ducks, and wing bone fractures are also increasing.

This keeping in individual cages has actually been prohibited across the EU since 2011. Nevertheless, at least 50% of the animals in France are still kept this way (as of 2012). The French foie gras industry estimates the proportion of businesses without individual cages to be only around 15%. In Hungary, too, some individual cages are still in use.

However, keeping the animals in group cages does not meet the requirements of the animals for sufficient exercise. These cages are provided with slatted floors or metal grid floors that are actually forbidden. Both types of soil lead to painful injuries to the feet.

Violations of the German Animal Welfare Act

Forced feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras violates several regulations of the German Animal Welfare Act (TierSchG) and is therefore prohibited in this country. Such offenses can be punished with imprisonment or fines.

  1. Violation of § 17 No. 1 TierSchG

A vertebrate cannot be killed without good cause. Human "conservation interests" are considered reasonable grounds, but not the satisfaction of luxury needs. The production of the luxury product foie gras would therefore be dispensable and thus does not justify the infliction of pain and suffering or the killing of living beings.

  1. Violation of § 17 No. 2 b TierSchG

The feeding fattening and the injuries caused by it, changes in behavior as well as abnormal liver and weight changes lead to long-lasting or recurring considerable pain or suffering and are therefore punishable. Keeping them in cages also leads to considerable suffering, as the natural needs of the animals cannot be satisfied here.

  1. Violations of § 3 No. 9 and No. 10 TierSchG

It is forbidden to force feed an animal unless there are health reasons to do so. Forced feeding is therefore forbidden in the case of the darning fattening. Rather, the type of feeding leads to considerable physical and psychological damage and thus to a further violation of animal protection.

Violations of European law

According to the European Community (EC) Farm Animal Husbandry Directive, the conditions under which animals live should correspond to the scientific point of view and the needs of the animals. Feeding that causes unnecessary suffering or harm and endangers the health of the animals violates the EC directive on the keeping of livestock.

Even if EU directives do not have to be implemented, the EU member states have committed themselves to the protection of animals in agricultural animal husbandry through international treaty obligations (European Animal Husbandry Convention). And so the feeding of ducks and geese also violates European law.

Is it legal to import foie gras?

Despite the production ban in Germany, the import and sale of foie gras and products processed with it are fundamentally not prohibited due to the free movement of goods within the EU.

A complete import ban, which would also reduce foreign foie gras production, represents a trade restriction. Such trade restrictions are not possible due to previous decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Instead, the priority would be to persuade countries such as Hungary, France and Belgium to comply with the European Animal Husbandry Convention and to implement the EU livestock farming guidelines.

Furthermore, according to the German Criminal Code, acts instigated in Germany are punishable, even if they are committed abroad. The systematic import of foie gras products should therefore be classified as unlawful in the sense of aiding and abetting a criminal offense and should be prosecuted; especially since animal protection was defined as a national goal in the Basic Law (Article 20a). So far, however, Germany has not acted in this way against France as its most important partner in the EU.

Options for action

We strongly advise against buying and consuming foie gras and other foie gras products so that they do not contribute to the suffering of ducks and geese described above. In order to avoid as much animal suffering as possible, we recommend that you do not buy any animal products. We offer support and information for this with our Vegan Taste Week.

Daniela Fischer


AHAW-Report: Report of the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare, AHAW, "Welfare aspects of the production of foie gras in ducks and geese," December 16, 1998

Fikuart, opinion of the Federal Veterinary Association, BTK, on ​​the production of goose and duck foie gras, March 2009.

Communication of March 11, 1998 on the protection of laying hens in various housing systems, COM 1998 135 final, 98/0092 CNS, page 6.

Hirt, A. / Maisack, C. / Moritz, J. 2016: Animal Protection Act. Commentary, Verlag Franz Vahlen, Munich, 3rd edition.

Maisack, On the concept of a reasonable reason in animal welfare law, Baden-Baden 2007 pp. 151, 152.

Directive 98/58 / EC and the Recommendation concerning Muscovy ducks and hybrids of Muscovy and domestic ducks.