Ducks and Geese: Foie Gras
Ducks and geese are factory farmed for the purpose of producing a delicacy known as ‘foie gras.’ Foie gras means ‘fatty liver’ in French, and the process of making it is extremely inhumane. Female hatchlings are immediately killed; their livers are considered too “veiny” for foie gras. Females are either ground up alive or are thrown in the trash to slowly suffocate to death. The typical factory farmed duck lives in a poorly ventilated warehouse with 1,000 other birds. He is confined in a cage the size of his body, with his head and neck sticking out of a slit in the top of the cage. This keeps the bird immobile, which makes it easier for farm workers to force-feed them. Starting at just a few weeks of age, ducks (in the U.S.) and geese (in France) are force-fed unnaturally large quantities of food in order to produce a fatty liver that is 10 times its normal size.
To achieve this size, birds get a foot long metal pipe forced down their esophagus 2-3 times per day, either by a mechanized feeding machine or manually by a farm worker. They pump approximately 1 pound of corn mash into their stomach at a time, which is approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of their body weight. This is the equivalent of forcing humans to consume 45 pounds of pasta every day. Force-feeding is extremely painful, and it causes their health to rapidly deteriorate. Within a matter of weeks the birds become grossly overweight, their livers become diseased and so large that the birds often have difficulty standing, breathing or moving. The birds suffer immense stress, injury, pain, and disease, to the point that many often die before their slaughter at 3 months of age. Ducks raised for foie gras are 20 times more likely to die from conditions on the farm than a duck raised for meat.
Currently: In 2004 California became the first U.S. state to ban the practice of force-feeding birds and the sale of foie gras made from force-fed birds (effective in 2012). Over a dozen European countries have already banned this cruel and inhumane practice.
Note - This video contains graphic footage of the largest foie gras producer in Canada. Teens under 18 years of age need parental permission before viewing. It should not be viewed by young children.
Factory farms produce two kinds of chickens – those for laying eggs, and those for eating meat. Both birds have been genetically selected to maximize output. The typical factory farm laying hens live inside warehouses within battery cages. These wire cages are typically 16 inches wide with 4 birds crammed inside each one. Cages are stacked one on top of another usually 3-9 tiers high, in long rows. The 325 million egg laying hens living like this in the U.S. are each given 67 sq. inches of space – less than a sheet of paper. Because the birds can’t flap their wings or perform any natural behaviors, they tend to excessively peck one another out of stress and frustration. To minimize injury, hens will have part of their beaks cut off without any anesthetic. Each warehouse typically holds up to 100,000 birds and they are poorly ventilated. The spread of disease is rampant, yet they receive no individualized vet care. Antibiotics are regularly mixed into their feed to help ward of illness, but approximately 16 million hens will die in their cages each year.
While living in these warehouses, the lights are controlled to artificially replicate seasons. Lights are lowered to simulate winter and at times they remain dark 24/7. They are also put on a very low protein (almost starvation) diet for 2-3 weeks. Then the lights go on for 16-20 hours per day to simulate spring time. They’re put on high protein diets and they start laying eggs. The chickens lay approximately 300 eggs, which is 2-3 times the amount commonly laid in nature. Hens are killed after one year because they become less productive. They are slaughtered and turned into low-grade chicken meat products.
All male chicks born to layers are killed they day they hatch - they don’t have the ability to lay eggs, and their bodies aren’t made to produce meat in profitable amounts. This amounts to roughly 250 million chicks being killed every year. The male chicks are killed in various ways; most are sucked through pipes onto an electrified plate; many go through grinders (fully conscious) and some are piled alive into trash containers and simply suffocate to death from the weight of other chicks.
Currently: In 2008 California became the first state to ban battery cages (with a phase out period). Michigan became the 2nd state in 2009, and they’ll be phased out within the next 10 years. All of the European Union will have phased out the use of battery cages by 2012. There are anti-confinement bills currently pending in New York and Massachusetts.
Note – This video contains footage of the living conditions for egg-laying chickens kept in battery cages. Teens under 18 years of age need parental permission before viewing. It should not be viewed by young children.
Factory farms produce two kinds of chickens – those for laying eggs, and those for eating meat. Both birds have been genetically selected to maximize output. By design, the chickens we eat for meat can’t live long enough to reproduce. Today’s broiler chickens grow 2-3 times as fast as their ancestors, and twice as big, on 1/3 of the feed. Therefore, even most of the small family farms that keep their chickens out on pasture have to order new chicks through the mail each year from factory farm hatcheries.
Although broiler chickens aren’t kept in cages, they do live in giant warehouses with approximately 50,000 chickens per shed. They have less then 1 sq. ft of space per bird. Conditions are so stressful that part of their beaks are cut off to minimize injuries from fighting. Due to their fast, abnormal growth, 3 out of 4 chickens will have a walking impairment and are likely in chronic pain due to their bodies being too heavy for their legs to support. Birds can often only take a few steps before collapsing to the ground. Antibiotics are regularly mixed into their feed to help ward off illness from their weakened immune systems and crowded living space. Even then, hundreds of millions will die each year before reaching their slaughter date due to health problems, including heart failure, cancer, heat prostration, and infectious diseases.
Broilers are slaughtered when they’re 39-42 days old. They are transported to slaughter hundreds of miles in trucks with no food or water, and no protection from the elements or extreme temperatures. The industry assumes a certain percentage will die in transport. Approximately 30% of chickens arrive at the slaughterhouse with newly broken bones from poor genetics, rough handling and transport. Chickens and turkeys are excluded from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act; no law requires their humane slaughter. It is legal, and common practice, for birds to be hung in shackles, dragged through an electrified water bath (which paralyzes them but allows them to still feel pain), and then have their throats slit while still conscious. Birds’ throats are often improperly slit and they go into the scalding water tank still alive.
Not all birds are the same size, so when they’re gutted, machines often accidentally rip into the intestines releasing feces into the body cavity. Bodies are then communally cooled in refrigerated tanks of water and the feces then contaminates birds that were previously clean. Pores open and the birds absorb this water into their bodies; birds are legally permitted to be sold with 8-11% of their weight consisting of fecal water. 95% of chickens become infected with E. coli due to fecal contamination during slaughter. 70-90% are infected with a deadly pathogen called campylobacter. Chickens are given chlorine baths to rid the bodies of odor and bacteria. The birds are then injected with salty broth solutions to make them “taste right”. 40-75% of birds are still infected with E. coli when they reach retail stores.
Note – This video contains footage of the living conditions for broiler chickens. Teens under 18 years of age need parental permission before viewing. It should not be viewed by young children.
Approximately 250 million turkeys are hatched in the U.S. each year. The typical factory farm turkey will live in a giant warehouse with 25,000 other turkey chicks, and each will have approximately 3 sq. feet of space. Chicks have the ends of their beaks and toes cut off (without anesthetic) to minimize injuries from fights. Turkeys have been genetically altered to grow unnaturally fast and to have unnaturally large breasts; as a result they commonly suffer from heart disease and leg deformities from supporting grossly overweight bodies. Factory farmed turkeys are physically incapable of walking normally, flying, jumping, surviving outdoors or reproducing naturally; every single turkey must be artificially inseminated. Turkeys are extremely vulnerable to disease, so they are fed more antibiotics than any other farmed animal.
Approximately 10-15% of turkeys will die being transported to slaughter. They are given no food or water during transport and their open crates are subjected to extreme weather. No law requires the humane slaughter of turkeys. It is legal, and common practice, for birds to be hung in shackles, dragged through an electrified water bath (which paralyzes them but allows them to still feel pain), and then have their throats slit while still conscious. Birds’ throats are often improperly slit and they go into the scalding water tank still alive.
Note – This video contains footage of the largest U.S. turkey breeding facility. Teens under 18 years of age need parental permission before viewing. It should not be viewed by young children.