South African Foie Gras – Cruelty Certified
The trade in foie gras has caused quite a controversy over the past decade mostly within Europe and America. Animal rights activists and outspoken chefs have denounced the sadistic farming practice and horrific slaughter of ducks and geese force feed a cocktail of corn with a gavage. Gavage is the term commonly known as “feeding tube” that is rammed down the duck and goose neck into the animal’s oesophagus; if an auger is used, the feeding takes about 45 to 60 seconds. Modern systems usually use a tube fed by a pneumatic pump fed via a slit cut in the oesophagus; with such a system the operation time per duck takes about 2 to 3 seconds.
ENM prints on a wide range of animal and environmental issues locally and worldwide however have yet to document on the cruel foie gras trade within Africa. Many Africans seem completely oblivious that the food they are consuming has been placed through a hellish cycle of abuse and narcissistic torture.
The French (who produce 78% of the world’s foie gras) have taken recent bans very personal with a politician from foie gras producing Gascony calling on all French restaurants to ban California wines in solidarity with the foie gras industry. California chefs still to this day violate the law even though foie gras has been banned. Although the ban will not have a significant impact on the French markets as they consume most of what they produce the French are apparently concerned that the ban would spread to other countries. The last orders of foie gras must now be heard within south Africa.
Locally foie gras also made headlines early last year when the NSPCA confiscated local producer Bon Canard’s Muscovy ducks and laid a criminal charge of animal cruelty apparently relating to the cage sizes and the controversial “gavage” technique used to fatten the ducks. “There was never any cruelty in our process, there are many misconceptions about the production,” said Rhoda Diedericks from Bon Canard. They were producing foie gras for 15 years with the SPCA apparently often on their farm even witnessing the feeding process. Its was “alleged” that the SPCA of south Africa supported a “humane foie gras trade” although no evidence of this allegation can be found. South Africa’s SPCA have been creating quite a large awareness and education program on foie gras production and the cruelty involved.
Several European countries have banned the sale and production of foie gras although some still continue to legally import, Great Britain being one prime example, Netherlands and Brazil being the (largest) exporters of foie gras and poultry into south Africa. South Africa has still yet to really address this sick act of cruelty although some traders such as Supermarket chain Fruit & Veg City (2012) was forced to remove foie gras (duck liver paté) from its shelves and issue an apology after shoppers voiced their anger at the sale of the French delicacy. The South African retailer stated;
“Fruit and Veg City and Food Lover’s Market is pleased to confirm that the group has discontinued the stocking and sale of foie gras in its stores effective immediately,” said the chain, via its publicist.
“The product was available in a limited number of stores located in Gauteng and due to several complaints we have had from consumers, we have taken a second look at this industry.”
The group said its decision was that, although the sale of the product in South Africa was not illegal, to endorse this product would be to endorse an industry that is noted for its inhumane practices and treatment of animals.
“Our priority is always the consumer, focusing on trends and demands, but this is always balanced with the company values of fresh produce sourced in a sustainable manner.” Emily Springer wrote on the retailer’s wall on Facebook: “We love going to your stores. Please don’t spoil this. [You say:] ‘We are here to educate, invigorate and update you on all the goodness of the Fruit & Veg City offering.’ Goodness does not equal selling foie gras.”
Bonny van Niekerk posted: “Thank you for making it so easy for me to never shop in Fruit & Veg again. It’s not often that we are given the chance to do the right thing and make a public stand against animal abuse. [I] am disappointed that you did not step up! Shameful!”
With many bans implemented within Europe, Europe and Brazil remain the (largest) poultry exporter to South Africa with some vast tons of poultry imported into South Africa as stated by SARS annual import summary (2007-2012). The summary states that Netherlands and Brazil are the largest exporters of duck, geese, and poultry into South Africa of which our investigative reports are included below for your information.
There seems to be no reduction with regards to foie gras and poultry imports too. From 2007 some 278,437,828kgs of poultry imports were imported into South Africa. From 2009 some 229,000,000kgs of poultry were imported of which 2012 was the largest to date equalling some 403,772,595kgs poultry imported into South Africa from Netherlands, Brazil, South America, even the United Kingdom. Please note this final number equates “all poultry” imports being chickens, ducks, and geese. Ducks and geese are defined as “other”.
Classified as “other” on the summary report we can state that from 2007 some 46,617kgs of duck and goose were imported into South Africa from Europe, Brazil, America and Great Britain being the soul exporters, of which in 2009 saw only a slight decrease. 2010, 2011 and 2012 onwards sees more demand grow for “duck and geese” products of which from 2010 sees some 63,064kgs imported, 2011 sees some 188,436kgs imported and 2012 saw some 369,114kgs of duck and geese imported into South Africa. SARs current 2014 summary has yet to be released however this is proof that demand for “duck and geese” products of which foie gras is also listed is on the increase within Africa at worrying levels. Total number of duck, geese and guinea fowl imports equated to a 0.1%.
Restaurants flagged as selling foie gras within South Africa;
Restaurants that have been highlighted as selling this filthy disgusting animal torture range from Ginja & Shoga, FortyAte, Bosman’s, Savoy Cabbage, Aubergine, La Colombe, Main Ingredient, Foodsmiths, Cape Colony, Bon Apetit, L’Auberge Du Paysan, Le Quartier Français, Manolo, Five Flies, La Campagnola, Villa Belmonte, BlauuwKlippen, Fashoda Loge, Constantia Uitsig Restaurant, Buitenverwachting Restaurant, D’Vine Restaurant at Willowbrook Lodge, Hout Bay Manor Hotel, The Greenhouse, The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Linger Longer, Le Carnard, Auberge Michel, Emily’s, 96 Winery Road, D’vine at Willbrook Lodge, Jaqui Daya Good Food Store, Mosaic at The Orient Hotel, Stone Hill, Lynton Hill, Guardian Peak, Terroir Kleine Zalze Estate, The Michaelangelo, Bouillabaisse, Green Truffle and finally The Westcliffe in Johannesburg.
Most foie gras producers do not consider their methods cruel, insisting that it is a natural process exploiting the animals’ natural features. Producers argue that wild ducks and geese naturally ingest large amounts of whole food and gain weight before migration. This is far from actual truthful though as like humans their stomach will inform their brain via neurological signals that their tummy is now full thus ceasing eating. The same neurological behaviour is also seen within geese and ducks to many more animals too. Despite the scientific evidence, they claim that geese and ducks do not have a gag reflex in their throats the same way that humans do, and therefore do not appear to find force feeding uncomfortable. Michael Ginor, owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, author of Foie Gras… A Passion, claims his birds come to him to be fed and says this is important because “a stressed or hurt bird won’t eat and digest well or produce a foie gras.”
According to Industry groups including the CIFOG, and researchers at INRA, forced feeding is not a cruel procedure. Mirepoix USA, a top provider of goose and duck foie gras, alleges that the animal rights activists attack is a form of prohibition against a cuisine item. Mirepoix claims that the use of the term “diseased” to refer to fatted liver is inaccurate and that geese and ducks naturally store dead fish in their esophagi for long periods of time. The ducks used in foie gras production, however, are a hybrid of Pekin (a type of Mallard) and Muscovy ducks, both of which are dabbling ducks and as such, subsist mainly on a diet of underwater vegetation, larvae, and various insects.
Chefs and diners alike have been force-fed misinformation about how its production affects the welfare of the birds, but here are the scientific facts:
Confinement: The birds are kept in barren pens or cages that restrict their freedom of movement, cause painful injuries to their feet, and prevent them from enjoying any natural behaviour.
Stress and Pain: Insertion of the feeding pipe stresses the birds, as it overcomes their gag reflex and can cause painful injuries to the throat.
Death: During the force-feeding phase, mortality rates are three to 10 times as high as in flocks of non-force fed ducks of the same age. These high rates are due to the injuries to the throat, liver failure, and heat stress – all of which are directly linked to the force-feeding practice.
Trading and producing foie gras within south Africa must stop sooner rather than later. The cruelty involved to produce such a rich yet stagnant dish of inhumane cruelty is beyond comprehensible of which we are shocked to see such a copious demand for foie gras products increase despite awareness and activism within south Africa. An all out ban within Europe, South America and the United States via banning exports, productions and “avine bird parts” used in the process of foie gras production will not necessarily stop demand or production within south Africa. The craze for foie gras in south Africa is great of which banning exports will begin a more “increased” trade of foie gras within south Africa. The entire trade has to stop now.
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Thank you for reading;
Chief Environmental Registrar.