Ducks on foie gras farms live nothing like their brothers and sisters in the great outdoors. Victimized by a heartless industry, these miserable birds have no water to swim in, and are instead typically confined to dark sheds until it comes time for force-feeding. This involves confining them in metal cages so they can’t move, forcing a metal pipe down their throats, and pumping in massive quantities of food multiple times per day. The end product of this painfully unnatural process is foie gras: enlarged, diseased duck livers that are puréed into pricey pâté and sold to gourmands.
Investigators have thoroughly documented the routine cruelty of foie gras production with video footage demonstrating just how it is done, so we were not particularly surprised when three refugees from a foie gras facility alighted at our New York Shelter showing clear signs of severe abuse:
- Kohl came to Farm Sanctuary after weeks of intensive force-feeding unable to walk or stand, and incapable of even eating without caregiver assistance. He also suffered from severe respiratory distress because his abnormally enlarged liver was putting pressure on his other organs, which in turned pressed on his lungs, making it difficult for him to breathe. Realizing that Kohl was in urgent need of intensive care, we immediately took him to Cornell University Hospital for Animals, where veterinarians administered emergency oxygen and intravenous fluids. While Kohl came out of the hospital in stable condition and now lives very comfortably at our New York Shelter, his legs will always remain deformed because of the numerous untreated leg bone breaks he sustained during his time in production, and he will never be able to walk or swim like a normal duck.
- Harper arrived at the shelter missing his left eye and, like Kohl, having difficulty breathing. He too suffered from hepatic lipidosis (or fatty liver syndrome) which caused him to have difficulty breathing. In addition, the left side of his skull was malformed and depressed more than the right, which gave his head an abnormal tilt. As a result of the protein-deficient diet fed to foie gras ducks, Harper’s potassium and uric acid levels were also dangerously low. Further adding to his struggle, Harper’s bill was malformed and he was missing patches of feathers. He has permanent damage to his sinus, most likely caused by trauma; this same trauma also likely resulted in the loss of his eye.
- Burton arrived at Farm Sanctuary stumbling on weakened legs under the weight of his force-fed physique. An extremely enlarged liver, along with excessive mucus in his upper respiratory tract, caused Burton to wheeze through his beak as he breathed. Along with Kohl and Harper, Burton had to be tube-fed formula at first because he could not eat on his own.
Tragically, the mistreatment that Kohl, Harper and Burton were subjected to on the foie gras farm will leave them physically debilitated for the rest of their lives, and in need of ongoing intensive care. Kohl, for example, will always be a disabled duck, but we are committed to furnishing him with whatever amenities he needs to have the best quality of life possible, including special swim therapy sessions that enable him to float around on his own little pond. Though these birds’ bodies will never fully heal from the crippling ordeal of their shared past, their spirits are able to soar because of the care and loving attention with which we provide them. We are happy to report that Burton has improved so much that he now lives in our main flock with a large group of Pekin girls who adore him. Kohl and Harper live together happily in a customized, individualized living area and spend their days basking in the sunshine, swimming in their pond and enjoying each other’s company.