Foie Gras means ‘fat liver’ in French. It’s the fatty liver of a duck or goose. Although some of these fatty livers are achieved by natural means, by overfeeding a duck over a long period of time, the greatest majority of these livers are the product of force-feeding, called gavage.
This production method usually takes one of two forms. In the first, ducks and geese have their feet nailed to wooden planks in order to keep them from backing up or running/flying away. Then a plastic nozzle is inserted into their mouths and they are force fed a corn mash at regular intervals during the course of the day. The animals are unable to get away from the feeding tubes and therefore have to endure the torture of being held in place and having food forced down their throats.
In the second, more common, form, the birds are kept in metal, cage-like compartments, just wide enough for their bodies. A narrow opening in the front of the cage allows their head to hang outside. On a regular schedule, a farm worker comes to each bird and grabs their head, forces their bill open and shoves a metal nozzle into their throats. A wet corn mash is forced down.
In both cases, the birds suffer throat lacerations and stomach rupture, drowning and difficulty breathing, reduced liver function and heart attack. If the birds survive the 12-18 days of torture, they are slaughtered for a fatty and unhealthy “delicacy” consumed in high-end restaurants.
Due to the horrifying treatment experienced by these birds, bans have been placed on the practice in several countries, including many European Union nations, Turkey and Israel. Although the United States as a whole has not banned the practice, several cities and states have independently done so. The most recent, California, has made it illegal to produce or sell foie gras as of July 1, 2012. However, the fine is limited to $1000, and a loophole in the law allows restaurants to prepare and serve foie gras if the customer brings in his own.