Monet and Matisse: Ducks Rescued from Foie Gras Factory

The details of Monet and Matisse’s journey to our New York Shelter are a mystery — an anonymous rescuer left them here one night… and then was gone. But evidence of where the ducks had come from was much easier to see.

These two ducks are Moulards, a breed used by producers of foie gras. French for “fatty liver,” foie gras is created by force-feeding ducks large quantities of corn and fat over the course of two to three weeks, swelling the birds’ livers to ten times their normal size. As they approach the point of slaughter, the birds increasingly struggle to walk and to breathe.

Force-feeding is performed by thrusting a metal tube down a duck’s throat and pumping meal directly into his or her esophagus. Tasked with performing the procedure on large numbers of birds in a short time, workers favor speed over caution, resulting in injuries that typically go untreated. The animals suffer lacerations and punctures from the feeding pipes. They choke on the feed or their own vomit. They contract foot and leg infections. Their other organs begin to fail. Many die before the period of force-feeding is complete.

Monet and Matisse are young with a tiny bit of baby fuzz on their necks that has not yet been replaced with adult feathers, but they already had been subjected to this abuse. Both arrived with sores on their bills from the feeding pipe, and the cuts, scrapes, and broken feathers on their bodies testify to lives spent in cramped cages and rough handling by foie gras producers who hold struggling birds as feed is pumped into their bodies.

Monet and Matisse were so terrified when they arrived that it was difficult for us to get near them. Fear is common among the foie gras birds we’ve saved. Ducks rescued from other circumstances may be wary at first, but eventually they grow comfortable with occasional handling. Most foie gras ducks, however, never fully lose their fear of being touched and held by humans — and understandably so. We do our best to handle these birds only when necessary and create environments that allow them to feel safe. Inseparable companions, Monet and Matisse already have the advantage of a strong friendship that will help them begin to feel secure in their new life.

Monet and Matisse may never completely trust humans, but we know they will learn to relax, spread their wings, and explore their new world now that they are free from cages and feeding tubes. For the first time, their lives will be their own to enjoy.