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Foie Gras

The cruelty behind the delicacy


Foie gras, which literally translates as “fatty liver”, is produced by force-feeding of ducks and geese that their livers become diseased and enlarged. This causes great suffering and can lead to severe difficulties for birds to walk and breath.

The majority of the world’s foie gras production takes place in France (75%). Over 20.000 tons foie gras are produced in France and 700.000 geese and 34,7 Mio ducks are slaughtered in the process for it.

In Europe, five countries still produce foie gras, which are Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, France and Hungary. While France and Bulgaria are the world’s first and second largest producers of duck foie gras, Hungary is the world’s top producer of goose foie gras. France and Belgium are the biggest consumers of Foie Gras.

Legal and political situation


Paneuropean level (Council of Europe):

  • The keeping of ducks in individual cages stands in contradiction to the  Recommendations on Ducks and Geese of 2011 of the Standing Committee of the European Convention for the Protection of Farm Animals (soft law).


EU legal framework:

  • The production of foie gras is prohibited on the national level in several countries: Argentina, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and California (USA).
  • The selling and import of Foie Gras in the EU is not prohibited, due to the principle of free movement of goods of the European Single Market.
  • Art. 4 of Council Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of farm animals, stipulates that Member states shall ensure that animals are kept with respect to their physiological and ethological needs. Force-feeding for foie gras production can never respect these needs.
  • The cruel foie gras production stands in contradiction with the general EU principle laid down in Art. 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which says: “Since animals are sentient beings, [the EU has to] pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals […].”
  • The second part of Art. 13 TFEU states: “[…] while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.” With regard to that second sentence of art. 13 TFEU, France declared foie gras to part of the country’s cultural tradition, the French cuisine. It is not clarified, however, under which circumstances a derogation for “religious rite, cultural tradition or regional heritage” would be given under Art. 13 TFEU.
  • FOUR PAWS’ position: The consumption of foie gras, being practiced for hundreds of years in the French Cuisine, can be seen as tradition. The cruel force feeding method, however, cannot be seen as tradition, especially as in the meantime alternative non-cruel feeding techniques exist (with figues and without force)


Further information regarding this topic


FOUR PAWS, together with the international animal welfare organisations Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), Humane Society International (HSI) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), has created a common statement against the cruelty behind the foie gras production.


You can download the briefing of FOUR PAWS, CIWF, HSI and WSPA here.


Further links


'Stop Gavage' Initiative of French Organisation L214


Investigation on Foie Gras Farms by Animal Equality