A rare bit of luck brought Ellen, Carrie, Emily, and Kristen to our door. The four ducks were born in May at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, which supplies foie gras to Amazon.com. At the time, a cruelty investigator for the group Mercy For Animals was working undercover at the facility. As he clocked out on the Friday before Mother’s Day, he mentioned to his coworkers that he planned to go shopping for a gift for his mother. The manager suggested that he give her some of the facility’s female ducklings, only a few days old. Seizing this unusual opportunity, the investigator accepted four little ducklings. Instead of taking them to his mother, though, he brought them to our New York Shelter, where they could receive the expert care they needed.
The world these ducklings escaped was one of flagrant cruelty. Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is created by force-feeding ducks large quantities of corn and fat through a metal tube that is thrust down their throats. As the birds endure this “gavage” over a two- to three-week period, their livers become grossly enlarged, swelling to ten times the normal size. The ducks are morbidly diseased by the time they are slaughtered.
Only male ducks are subjected to this procedure because female ducks have larger veins in their livers and are considered unsuitable for foie gras. It was once common for producers to gas female ducklings to death and discard their bodies, but now many facilities, including Hudson Valley Foie Gras, raise them for meat. Although these female ducks are not force-fed like their brothers, they too are typically confined in dark sheds, subjected to harsh treatment, and slaughtered in their youth.
How different the lives of these rescued ducks are here at Farm Sanctuary! The four, who arrived as fluffy babies, have grown into healthy, beautiful young adults who revel in the outdoors. Foie gras industry proponents claim that ducks of this breed, Moulard, hate the water, but our girls defy that self-serving nonsense. They love to swim. They dive to the bottom of the pond and then shoot back up, looking as natural in the water as penguins. It’s a delight to watch.
The four are inseparable. Kristen and Emily are best pals (and our champion swimmers), while Ellen and Carrie are often seen together at the edge of the pond, taking it easy as they watch their friends in action. The quartet has also befriended some ducks rescued from a foie gras facility in Canada. All are very active and very happy.
Foie gras production traumatizes its animal victims physically and emotionally, filling their lives with disease, pain, and fear. Knowing of the brutality they evaded, we are all the more thrilled to see these young ducks flourishing.