Highlights from Expert Statements
Independent, nationally and world-renowned academic and professional experts in farmed animal welfare and veterinary medicine reviewed the video footage from MFA's undercover investigation at Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Below are some of their statements.
Holly Cheever, DVM
Dr. Cheever is a veterinary practitioner, licensed in the states of New York and Vermont, who has had a lifetime of exposure to farmed animals. Dr. Cheever is a graduate of Cornell's School of Veterinary Medicine and assists local and state law enforcement officers in the investigation and prosecution of animal abuse, frequently in cases involving farmed animals. Dr. Cheever states:
The workers handle the ducks very roughly, grabbing them by the neck and trapping them between their legs. Each metal gavage tube is jammed abruptly down the birds' throats and the crop is filled rapidly, with the distension visible as each crop fills more rapidly and to a greater degree of distension than would ever occur with natural feeding processes. The ducks struggle visibly due to the pain of the tube's rough abrupt passage. The condition of the birds is poor: their feathers are unpreened, dirty and bedraggled, indicating that the birds are too ill to perform a natural, necessary, frequently performed behavior. The environment is filthy, as are the birds.
Bernard E. Rollin, PhD
Dr. Rollin is a distinguished professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University and is internationally well-known for his over thirty years of work in animal welfare. He was a major architect of federal laws protecting laboratory animals, and has written two books on farmed animal welfare. He serves on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production and is an expert witness on animal welfare issues in the United States and abroad. Dr. Rollin writes:
Most egregious is the fact that the animals are force fed to create the fatty liver constitutive of foie gras. Many people do not realize that veterinary medicine recognizes "fatty liver" as a pathological condition, i.e. a disease.
Greg Burkett, DVM
Dr. Burkett is a board-certified avian veterinarian in North Carolina who serves as chair of the AAV Avian Welfare Committee and as an adjunct professor of avian medicine and surgery at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He concludes:
[T]hese birds are being over fed by force-feeding to enlarge their liver with fat, intentionally causing them to develop a medical condition known as hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. [M]any of these birds are continuously panting and open-mouthed breathing…an indication that these birds are having respiratory difficulty…[which] occurs in birds with…an enlarged liver.
Sara Shields, PhD
Sara Shields holds a doctorate in animal behavior from the University of California, Davis, and has extensive experience as a research scientist, teacher, and consultant in animal welfare with an emphasis on the well-being of poultry. Dr. Shields states:
In my opinion, [force-feeding] is cruel and inhumane, as it involves rough, invasive handling and can result in trauma and injuries to the esophagus. The process overrides the natural system of hunger and satiety and the birds in the video appear to be frightened and distressed—they move immediately away from the handler as soon as they are released.
Armaiti May, DVM, CVA
Dr. May received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and is a practicing veterinarian with experience treating farmed animals. Dr. May writes:
It is well-documented that the process of force-feeding these birds inflicts suffering in the form of traumatic injuries to their esophaguses and stomachs as well as severely diseased fatty livers.
Debra Teachout, DVM, MVSc
Dr. Teachout is a practicing veterinarian who graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. She also holds an advanced degree in veterinary clinical pathology from Western College of Veterinary Medicine and has completed additional coursework in farmed animal welfare. Dr. Teachout states:
The practice of force feeding amounts of food far beyond the limits of the duck's need to eat causes pain and suffering. Ducks are highly capable of feeling pain especially in the throat area. They have a gag reflex that would be overcome by the tube insertion, and this would cause distress in the bird.
Lee Schrader, DVM
Dr. Schrader is a practicing veterinarian who obtained her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Schrader has over thirty-five years of experience working with animals, particularly animals with serious, difficult-to-diagnose disorders. Dr. Schrader concludes:
[T]he process of force feeding birds in order to deliberately induce a disease state is patently inhumane, causing severe physical pain and psychological distress.
Lorelei Wakefield, VMD
Dr. Wakefield holds a veterinary medical doctorate and uses her background to assist humane law enforcement officers in New York City with animal cruelty investigations and to treat the victims. Her expertise, which includes the care of farmed animals, has been widely featured on the Animal Precinct television series. Dr. Wakefield states:
Force-feeding in the foie gras industry is inherently cruel. … This feeding beyond what the ducks would eat normally causes hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, which impairs liver function. Severe liver impairment can lead to conditions like enlargement of the liver, fluid in the abdomen and eventually death.
Nedim C. Buyukmihci, VMD
Dr. Buyukmihci is an emeritus professor of veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis. He has over thirty-four years of experience, much of it involving farmed animals. He writes:
This overfeeding will lead to liver enlargement and malfunction, causing chronic metabolic dysfunction and illness. The ducks at this facility, therefore, are being subjected to extremely inhumane conditions causing them to suffer greatly.
Additionally, numerous world-renowned organizations and respected animal scientists have also condemned the practice of force-feeding birds to produce foie gras, including:
Europe's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare
[T]here is good evidence that liver structure and function…is severely altered and compromised in force fed ducks and geese.
[The Committee] on Animal Health and Animal Welfare concludes that force feeding, as currently practised, is detrimental to the welfare of the birds.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
The production of fatty liver for foie gras… raises serious animal welfare issues and it is not a practice that is condoned by FAO.
Dr. D.J. Alexander, European Union Expert Committee
The only recommendation the Committee can properly make is that force-feeding of ducks and geese should stop and this could be best achieved by the prohibition of the production, importation, distribution and sale of foie gras.
Dr. Ward Stone, senior wildlife pathologist, New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation
[T]he short tortured lives of ducks raised for foie gras is well outside the norm of farm practice. Having seen the pathology that occurs from foie gras production, I strongly recommend that this process be outlawed.
Dr. Ian Duncan, poultry welfare expert and professor in applied ethology at the University of Guelph in Canada
[F]orce feeding quickly results in birds that are obese and in a pathological state, called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease. There is no doubt that in this pathological state, the birds will feel very ill. In my view it is completely unethical to deliberately promote a diseased state in an animal. The birds' obesity will lead to a myriad of other problems from skeletal disorders to difficulties in coping with heat stress and all of which are accompanied by feelings of malaise.
Dr. Marianne Heimann, veterinary pathologist
The liver steatosis caused by "gavage" is a pathological process that shows itself first by a fatty degeneration of the hepatic cells and then by necrosis. The fatty liver cannot be seen as normal. It is a categorical sign of a state of illness with clinical symptoms.
Dr. Emily Levine, veterinarian and ethologist
Despite the misrepresentation of the industry using natural techniques, force-feeding in itself can cause significant discomfort.
Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare, School of Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
My view on the production of foie gras is clear and supported by biological evidence. This practice causes unacceptable suffering to these animals. Foie gras production takes no account of the physiological state of the bird, but involves force feeding far beyond the point at which the bird would naturally stop. This practice is repeated daily for a number of weeks, causing lesions to the throat, pathological changes to the liver and painful distension of the abdomen, limiting movement.
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