#Animal Welfare
The Australian Senate

Foie gras, considered by some to be a gastronomic ‘delicacy’, is the result of one of the most inhumane uses of animals for food. Despite its production being illegal in Australia, it is imported from France and is available from restaurants and online suppliers.

Foie gras is a liver pate derived by force-feeding ducks and geese until their livers become grossly distended from fatty deposits, sometimes up to ten times the normal size. These birds suffer from fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis), a painful condition that is deliberately inflicted by being force-fed larger quantities of food than they would voluntarily eat.

The force-feeding procedure involves passing a long metal or plastic tube into their stomachs under high pressure two or three times daily. This must overcome the birds’ natural gag reflex, so is highly aversive to them. Force-feeding is preceded by rough handling of the neck and causes pain and injury to the highly sensitive tongue, pharynx and oesophagus, often leaving blood on the feeding tube. Oesophageal inflammation and injury exacerbate the pain of subsequent force-feedings and can lead to opportunistic fungal and bacterial infections. The tubes are not cleaned between birds, risking the spread of infectious disease. Animals can also die as a result of oesophageal perforation or aspiration pneumonia.

During the force-feeding period, birds are kept in intensive housing, restricted to barren individual or small group cages that offer no opportunities for normal social interactions or natural behaviours. This causes stress and frustration, and is particularly problematic for waterfowl, who require open water for maintaining eye, nostril and plumage condition and for engaging in instinctual behaviours. Birds in individual cages (approximately 80% of ducks) are unable to even flap their wings, turn around or stand normally.

The inability to spread their wings results in open-mouthed breathing as the birds attempt to thermoregulate, and this increases throughout the force-feeding period in response to excess heat generated by grain over-consumption. There is no opportunity to escape from peer aggression or from the constant noise and close proximity to conspecifics, all sources of ongoing stress. The birds are often kept in darkness, except during feeding, in order to keep them calm. This further restricts their ability to perform natural behaviours. Standing on inappropriate flooring, such as wooden slats or wire mesh, causes painful foot infections (Bumblefoot) that can progress into the joints.

By the time of slaughter, the birds are in an advanced stage of liver disease. Many experience liver failure, difficulties with mobility and breathing due to abdominal distention, and sometimes secondary heart failure, kidney failure or liver haemorrhage. Due to the impact of their diet on calcium metabolism, birds are predisposed to osteopathy and subsequent bone fractures, with the majority suffering fractures to the wing (mainly the humerus bone) when being handled at slaughter. Birds also experience high mortality rates during the force-feeding period.

To the Honourable President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.

The petition of the undersigned shows our concern that foie gras is legally imported and sold in Australia, despite the inherent cruelty involved in its production.

Your petitioners ask that the Senate supports a bill to ban the importation and sale of foie gras in Australia.

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The Ban the importation and sale of foie gras in Australia petition to The Australian Senate was written by Sentient: The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics and is in the category Animal Welfare at GoPetition.