Alternatives to force-feeding


16 November 2012    

Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE)


Foie gras production as it is currently practised is detrimental to the welfare of the birds involved. Council Directive 98/58/EC states that ‘no animal shall be provided with food or liquid in a manner … which may cause unnecessary suffering or injury’. However, a Council of Europe recommendation continues to allow force-feeding where it is currently carried out, providing that member states encourage research into alternative methods.

A recent study by the French agricultural institute INRA shows that under specific farming conditions, geese can develop a fatty liver without being force-fed. Research has, however, not been carried out on ducks, which account for the majority of birds used in foie gras production. Alternatives to foie gras have, nevertheless, already been marketed.

Is the Commission monitoring the ways in which producer countries are encouraging research into alternatives to force-feeding? What action will it take to ensure that alternatives actually replace the conventional force-feeding of birds?

Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

15 January 2013    

The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to its answer to Written Question E‐3959/2009(1) for the legal framework which covers the production of foie gras in the EU.

Currently, the Commission concentrates its actions on ensuring the enforcement of the requirements of the directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes(2) and the recommendations of the Council of Europe on keeping geese and ducks for the production of meat and foie gras(3) by the Member States. To this effect, the Commission collects data on the results of welfare inspections in farms keeping geese and ducks. In addition, the Commission inspection services carried out on the spot audits in the two main countries producing foie gras in the EU in 2011 and 2012(4), focusing its attention on the conditions in which animals are kept.

However, up to now, the Commission has not monitored on a regular basis the ways in which countries producing foie gras encourage research to alternatives to gavage and has not received specific information on alternative protocols to the ones currently practised.

(2)    OJ L 221,8.8.1998, p.23.
(3) and
(4)    Audits in Hungary in 2011 and in France in 2012. The audit report in Hungary is available at The report in France will be published at a later stage.