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A damning report
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A report gave rise to the scandal. On December 16th 1998 the European Commission’s Scientific Committee for Animal Health and Welfare published a report on foie gras production. The 93-page report concluded that force-feeding is harmful to animal welfare. It is thanks to this text that the European Commission has taken measures to improve regulation of this practice.

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Diseases

The report mentions that the enlargement of the liver is a pathological complaint (an illness that is induced, but an illness nevertheless), which is confirmed by the fact that the web-footed birds died if the force-feeding continued, even if this were only for a few more days. The report notes that nourishment by force-feeding makes geese and ducks suffer, subjecting them to anxiety, stress and pain.

Large number of deaths

The report indicates that animals suffer from fractures (from 30% to 70%) and that individual cages should be banned due to the tremendous discomfort that they cause. It also underlines that the mortality rate is very high: the death rate prior to slaughtering can reach up to 15%, but the average is between 2% and 4%, which is already 10 to 20 times higher than the “standard” death rate of around 0.2% for web-footed birds that are not force-fed.

Criticism

This highly critical text was drawn up by scientists, several of whom were French. It immediately raised concerns on the part of producers. Page 52 of the report consequently states, “As a growing number of French people are becoming concerned by animal welfare, it looks likely that foie gras sales will be affected…[…]. If no publicly recognised steps are taken with a view to improving animal welfare, foie gras sales could fall slowly or rapidly.” The report does not call for an outright ban on force-feeding, fearing that this could lead to the emergence of a black market. It does, on the other hand, demand that industrial force-feeding with machines should at least be banned.


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