United Poultry Concerns
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22 October 2014
Laying Hens and Foie Gras Ducklings:
Harper’s Magazine & Newsweek Reports

Hens in factory

Cage Wars: A visit to the egg farm

The November 2014 issue of Harper’s Magazine has a powerful report about hens used for egg production. “Cage Wars: A visit to the egg farm,” by Deb Olin Unferth, documents her eyewitness observations of everything from horrific “enriched” battery cages to barren battery cages to her conversations with egg-industry reps and a visit to Animal Place in northern California. She describes the conflicts and cruelties; for example:

“As the many current conversations about animal use and sentience attest, we are re-evaluating our relationship to animals. Our views are shifting and our circle of empathy is widening, yet the scale on which we are consuming eggs is immense and still growing, and there is no other way [than mass production] to satisfy the demand.”

“I go into the barn: the crud, the pit, the tight tiny cages. I can feel every breath, and I swat at flies as I walk. The pit seems even worse than it was in the video. The grime is thick, and it hangs from the feeders and cages and belts like icicles. . . . Such a monstrous thing we have constructed out of wire and cement and steel, so huge you can’t see the other end, so filthy you can hardly breathe, stuffed with living beings.”

Read and share the full article: Cage Wars: A visit to the egg farm.

Please write a letter to the editor of Harper’s Magazine at letters@harpers.org.

Photographs of the Vande Bunte Eggs enriched housing system
© Adam Dickerson/Big Dutchman USA, courtesy Vande Bunte Farms
Hens in enriched cages

Watch: Shocking Video of Live Ducklings Being Thrown Into Grinder During Foie Gras Production

By Madeline Grant for Newsweek
Filed: 10/17/14 at 10:13 AM | Updated: 10/21/14 at 6:28 AM

Live duckling sliding down chute into grinder

A female duckling disappearing down a chute after being discarded.

The production of foie gras has come under renewed criticism after a Newsweek report revealed that farmers in France are failing to meet EU standards in animal welfare.

Included in the report is a disturbing video illustrating the fate of as many as 40 million female ducklings a year during foie gras production. The shocking video shows workers at a foie gras factory in southern France separating out day-old female ducklings from a mixed group and tossing them down a chute into an industrial mincer.

Their remains, along with slaughterhouse residue, are used in cat food, fertilizers and the pharmaceutical industry.

Only male ducks, who gain weight faster than their female counterparts, are used to make the controversial foodstuff. For this reason, around 40 million female ducklings are thrown - alive - into industrial grinders every year.

The video was filmed on an unidentified foie gras farm in the Landes, southern France by French animal protection group L214, who work to expose the mistreatment of animals around the world.

Following a 2013 investigation by the group into Ernest Soulard, a prominent foie gras producer, Gordon Ramsay and a number of other well-known chefs halted all purchasing from his company.

The controversial food stuff is made by force-feeding male ducks large quantities of food several times a day to fatten their livers, often whilst being kept in tiny cages. After roughly two weeks of this process, the ducks are sent to the abattoir. At slaughter they are typically hung upside down, have their throats cut and are left to bleed to death. The livers are then used to make the rich pate, a popular delicacy in France, and in luxury restaurants around the world.

Animal rights and welfare groups argue that foie gras production methods, especially the practice of force-feeding, are cruel and inhumane. The group Peta has claimed that the insertion and removal of the feeding tube scratches the throat and esophagus of the ducks, causing irritations and wounds, and in some cases leading to potentially fatal infections. Around a million birds die in the force-feeding process every year.

“This is like cramming 20kg of pasta into a human being, twice a day for two weeks,” said Brigitte Bardot, actress and animal rights campaigner. “Imagine the food being forced down a tube into your stomach while you are in a cage in which you cannot move.”

Newsweek has also released footage of Foie Gras production at a more ethical outlet, a small family run farm near the village of Aubiet in the Gers area of South West France. Pierre Lava, a farmer whose family has produced the delicacy for five generations, takes hold of several ducks in turn and forces a feeding tube down their throats.

Though the process may appear brutal, it pales in comparison to the much larger industrial cages that make up the majority of Foie Gras production units in the country, in which up to 1,500 birds are fed at an average of 2.5 seconds per bird. During this time as much as 1 kg of gruel is blasted down the gizzard of the duck. At Pierre Lava's farm the amount is restricted to 200g of par-cooked maize.

Read the full article: Torture in a Can: French Foie Gras Farmers Failing to Improve Appalling Conditions

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