Animal Protection Groups Oppose Attempt to Gut Calif. Ban on Cruel Force-Feeding of Ducks

May 1, 2012

Animal protection organizations are calling on California legislators to reject an eleventh hour attempt to gut an animal protection law passed in 2004 which is set to take effect this July.

California's law banning the force-feeding of ducks and geese as well as the sale of foie gras [PDF] produced by force-feeding was passed in 2004 as Senate Bill 1520 and included a seven-and-a-half-year phase-in. The law was authored by then State Sen. John Burton and the lengthy phase-out was supported by animal protection organizations and the sole producer of foie gras in California: Sonoma Foie Gras.

In order to produce foie gras, factory farm workers shove long pipes down the throats of ducks and geese multiple times each day to force-feed the animals unnaturally large quantities of corn and fat. The process causes the birds' livers to become diseased with hepatic lipidosis and swell up to 10 times their normal size. The birds are then slaughtered, and the diseased, engorged organ is sold as foie gras. 

In 2004, Sonoma Foie Gras owner Guillermo Gonzalez wrote [PDF] to then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to urge him to sign the compromise bill into law, stating, "I have the moral stature to accept that if within the seven and a half years established by S.B. 1520, science and government don't arrive to the conclusion that the methods used in our foie gras production are acceptable...I will be ready to quit."

During the past seven years, producers have not developed an alternative to the cruel force-feeding practices addressed by the 2004 bill. Recent investigations posted at show the process is still just as inhumane as when the law was passed.

"Shoving a pipe down a duck’s throat multiple times a day and forcing him to consume far more than he would ever normally eat is as cruel and inhumane today as it was seven years ago when California banned this animal abuse," said Jennifer Fearing, senior California director of The Humane Society of the United States.

"Force-feeding animals to induce liver disease so people can consume a high-priced hors d’oeuvre is completely out of step with today’s growing commitment to animal welfare," said Suzanne McMillan, director of the ASPCA’s farm animal welfare campaign.

"Cramming pipes down ducks' throats is both physically painful and psychologically terrifying for these poor ducks," said Farm Sanctuary senior director for strategic initiatives Bruce Friedrich.


    • SB 1520 author and current chairman of the California Democratic Party John Burton recently published an op-ed in the LA Times, in which he wrote, "The time has come for this humane and common-sense law to finally take effect. Many years have passed since the Legislature discussed this important issue. We don't need to re-debate the cruelty of force-feeding."  
    • Due to the inhumane treatment of the birds involved, more than a dozen countries, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Israel (formerly the world’s fourth-largest foie gras producer), have either prohibited force feeding for foie gras production or have interpreted it as illegal under existing anti-cruelty laws.
    • Cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco have passed resolutions condemning foie gras. Retailers such as Safeway, Costco, Target and Whole Foods Market refuse to sell it. More than a hundred California restaurateurs have already dropped foie gras from their menus.
    • Renowned chef Wolfgang Puck sent a letter to nearly 5,000 fine dining restaurants in California last month to explain why he supports the law. He wrote, "As a chef, a businessman, and someone who cares about the humane treatment of animals, I'm writing to let you know why I support this particular law, and why I hope you’ll give it your full support as well."