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Walk for Farm Animals: Monet and Matisse, the ducks

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Since Liberation BC’s 7th annual Walk for Farm Animals to benefit Farm Sanctuary is coming up on October 5th, it’s time to get to know just a few of the some of the approximately 900 animals who live at Farm Sanctuary’s three shelters.  Are you ready for the Walk?  It’s time to register and start fundraising!

This is part of a series of farm animal stories on our blog.



Monet and Matisse are two ducks rescued from the foie gras industry.  (I wrote about the industry’s lies a couple of weeks ago.)

Monet and Matisse are young with a tiny bit of baby fuzz on their necks that has not yet been replaced with adult feathers, but they already had been subjected to this abuse. Both arrived with sores on their bills from the feeding pipe, and the cuts, scrapes, and broken feathers on their bodies testify to lives spent in cramped cages and rough handling by foie gras producers who hold struggling birds as feed is pumped into their bodies.(link)

See this slideshow for a glimpse of what Monet and Matisse endured:

Monet and Matisse were so terrified when they arrived that it was difficult for us to get near them. Fear is common among the foie gras birds we’ve saved. Ducks rescued from other circumstances may be wary at first, but eventually they grow comfortable with occasional handling. Most foie gras ducks, however, never fully lose their fear of being touched and held by humans — and understandably so. We do our best to handle these birds only when necessary and create environments that allow them to feel safe. Inseparable companions, Monet and Matisse already have the advantage of a strong friendship that will help them begin to feel secure in their new life.(link)

Liberation BC is proud to support Farm Sanctuary by participating in the annual Walk for Farm Animals.  Won’t you join us?

Down with down! (Again!)

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

.....that's....not a goose.

I’ve written about down and other feathers before–not just on our website but on this blog.  But I found this the other day at a local store and noticed two problems with the packaging.  The first is the fact that the photo is of a Mute Swan, not a goose.  (The body language tells us that the swan is kinda pissed off, though, which I guess is appropriate.)  The second issue, of course, is with the presentation itself, which is as ridiculous and inaccurate as the pictures of happy cows that sometimes show up on milk cartons.

Dairy cows don’t usually get to graze in some pastoral paradise any more than ducks and geese raised for their down (and meat) spend their free time paddling around in a pond.  In fact, many of our goose and duck feathers come from birds raised for foie gras–a product banned in many countries worldwide for its extreme cruelty.

Learn more about the violence behind down and feathers here.


More accurate but probably wouldn't be a big seller. (Goose photo from Four Paws International)


The reality of foie gras production

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013


many ducks

A foie gras farm in Quebec.

Foie gras is a shockingly cruel industry which relies on the deliberate infliction of a painful and debiliating disease in order to create the grossly enlarged, swollen liver so prized by gourmands.

24 million ducks and geese die for foie gras, 500,000 of which are in Canada–Quebec, specifically. In modern foie gras factory farms, these waterfowl are intensively raised in large, enclosed barns.  One by one, the farm worker grabs each immobilized bird and forces a metal pipe down their throats. An enormous amount of a corn-and-oil mixture is pumped by a machine directly into their gullets in just a few seconds – up to one-third of the birds’ own body weight each day. They are fed in this way for 2 to 4 weeks before being slaughtered.(link)

To get an idea of the horror inflicted upon birds raised for foie gras, watch this slideshow of photos taken during a series of undercover investigations in Canada’s three foie gras farms, Palmex, Elevages Perigord, and Aux Champs d’Elisee.  (Warning: the photos are graphic.  Photo credit goes toFarm Sanctuary.)

The industry has no qualms with stating blatant and obvious lies to defend this practice, insisting that force-feeding is merely an extension of the ducks’ “natural migratory behaviour”.  They conveniently ignore the fact that Moulards, the birds used in foie gras production, are non-migratory.  Even if they were, it’s important to note that birds preparing for migration will only gorge themselves to the point of doubling the size of their livers; the livers of foie gras ducks are ten times bigger than normal.


Foie gras ducks are dabbling ducks, like Mallards, and do not eat fish. (Photo: Richard Bartz)

Another favourite defense of foie gras fans is that ducks eat “wriggling, spiny fish” all the time and therefore, forcing a metal pipe down a duck’s throat and into their stomach is harmless.  Putting aside the fact that punctured esophagi are frequently found in foie gras ducks (both live and dead), the claim isn’t even remotely true from a scientific standpoint.  Some species of diving ducks do eat fish–yes, even wriggling, spiny ones.  Moulards, however, are in a completely different subfamily known as “dabbling ducks”.  (Technically, they’re a hybrid of two species of dabbling ducks–Muscovies and our common Mallard.) Dabbling ducks subsist on plant matter that they graze from the surface of the water, as well as small vertebrates and insects.  And geese, who are also used for foie gras, are mostly vegetarian; at any rate, they do not eat fish either. (Note: There are freak incidents of dabbling ducks swallowing small fish, but according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this almost never happens; on the rare occasion that it is observed, it is during the ducks’ breeding season when physiological need for protein is highest.)

You can read more industry claims and detailed responses on our part here.

Walk for Farm Animals: Canadian Foie Gras Investigation

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Since Liberation BC’s 6th annual Walk for Farm Animals to benefit Farm Sanctuary is coming up on September 29th, it’s time to get to know just a few of the some of the approximately 900 animals who live at Farm Sanctuary’s three shelters. (It’s also time to register and get started fundraising!)

This is part of a series of farm animal stories on our blog.

rescued foie gras duck Kohl

Kohl, rescued from a foie gras farm

The entire Canadian foie gras industry is located in Quebec, which is where Farm Sanctuary decided to focus their undercover investigations.  Every year in Quebec, 500,000 ducks are killed for foie gras; that is, if they even make it to the slaughterhouse.  The process of force-feeding these birds is so violent and brutal that many of them die as a result, choking on their own vomit, suffering ruptured esophagi and anal hemmorhaging, and more.  In fact, pre-slaughter mortality rates are even higher than on most factory farms.  At one foie gras producer, workers were even issued a bonus if they managed to kill fewer than 50 of their 500 assigned ducks before the birds were to be sent to slaughter.  Additionally, many ducks raised for foie gras go blind; as waterfowl, they require access to water to clean themselves properly, but foie gras farms provide none.  Learn more about foie gras.

Below is a video of Farm Sanctuary’s undercover investigations at Palmex, Inc, Elevages Perigord, and Aux Champs d’Elisee, the three largest foie gras producers in Canada:

Fortunately, at least three lucky ducks escaped: Kohl, Harper, and Burton were rescued from foie gras farms and now live safely at Farm Sanctuary’s New York Shelter.  Unfortunately, all three will forever bear the scars of the severe abuse they suffered:

  • Kohl came to Farm Sanctuary after weeks of intensive force-feeding unable to walk or stand, and incapable of even eating without caregiver assistance. He also suffered from severe respiratory distress because his abnormally enlarged liver was putting pressure on his other organs, which in turned pressed on his lungs, making it difficult for him to breathe…his legs will always remain deformed because of the numerous untreated leg bone breaks he sustained during his time in production, and he will never be able to walk or swim like a normal duck.
  • Harper arrived at the shelter missing his left eye…He too suffered from hepatic lipidosis (or fatty liver syndrome) which caused him to have difficulty breathing. In addition, the left side of his skull was malformed and depressed more than the right, which gave his head an abnormal tilt. As a result of the protein-deficient diet fed to foie gras ducks, Harper’s potassium and uric acid levels were also dangerously low…[his] bill was malformed and he was missing patches of feathers. He has permanent damage to his sinus, most likely caused by trauma; this same trauma also likely resulted in the loss of his eye.
  • Burton arrived at Farm Sanctuary stumbling on weakened legs under the weight of his force-fed physique. An extremely enlarged liver, along with excessive mucus in his upper respiratory tract, caused Burton to wheeze through his beak as he breathed. Along with Kohl and Harper, Burton had to be tube-fed formula at first because he could not eat on his own. (more)

Burton eventually healed enough to join Farm Sanctuary’s main flock, while Kohl and Harper live in a special, customized area that best suits their needs.  Kohl remains severely disabled, but caregivers provide him with swim therapy so that he can float freely in his own pond.  And though the birds will never be completely rehabilitated, they now lively safely, with access to sunshine and water and friends.

three rescued foie gras ducks

Kohl, Harper, and Burton, free at last.

Liberation BC is proud to support Farm Sanctuary by participating in the annual Walk for Farm Animals.  Won’t you join us?

Down with down (and all feathers!)

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Geese suffer terribly as they are plucked.

Down and feathers sometimes get left out of debates about animal cruelty, but that’s partly because many people just aren’t aware of the considerable suffering that goes into down-filled coats, pillows, or comforters, as well as all those pretty decorative feathers you see being worn with jewelry or as hair extensions.

The biggest issue is live-plucking.  While some feathers come from the carcasses of chickens and turkeys raised for food–these birds are dunked in boiling water, often while still alive, to remove their feathers–about 50% come from live-plucking.

A description of live-plucking, from an undercover investigation in Hungary, one of the three biggest down-producers in the world:

…birds on their backs screaming and struggling to free themselves…as their down is ripped from their bodies at rapid speed. Afterwards, several birds are left paralyzed on the ground with large flesh wounds. The birds with big gaping wounds are then sewn back together with needle and thread on site by the workers themselves and without any anesthetic.

Vancouver’s Animal Voices radio show also had a feature recently in which they discussed the recent trend of decorative feathers being used as hair extensions.  These feathers come from roosters who are bred specifically for their beautiful plumage, and then killed.

Learn more about down and other feathers at our page.

Freedom Foods fails again

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Launched by the RSPCA in 1994, Freedom Foods is the UK equivalent of the BC SPCA’s “SPCA Certified” label, which aims “to provide farm animals with the opportunity to express behaviours that promote physical and psychological well-being.”

Freedom Foods is considered one of the most respected labels when it comes to eating “humane” animal products.  Like similar labels, however, it has shown to be less trustworthy than people like to think; most recently, for example, this February, at a farm for “high-welfare free-range” poultry:

Filming, done through a gap in a wall, showed farm staff swinging ducks by their necks and throwing them at other birds as they are herded into crates to be transported for slaughter.   Images later captured from inside the building showed sick, injured and dead birds. (Farm workers filmed abusing free-range ducks)

This isn’t the first time that a supposedly humane, free-range farm has been proven to be surprisingly similar to conventional factory farms.  It isn’t even the first time for Freedom Foods label.  Back in 2007, undercover investigators in Great Britain discovered something disturbing at  “Freedom Foods”-endorsed farms which boasted “the very highest standards of welfare”: dead and decaying ducks, diseased and injured turkeys, filthy drinking water, pigs lying in wet, soiled conditions with no access to dry, clean straw, and more. (Film shows neglect of pigs, turkeys, and ducks sold under ethical label)

It happened again in 2008, at a free-range egg farm, where thousands of hens lived crammed into the darkness of an enormous shed.  The birds were so cramped that they could barely move; many were undernourished and losing feathers, both signs of stress and overcrowding.   Dead and dying chickens were found as well, decomposing and covered with dust.   Though the birds were supposed to be outside every day by 9 AM, an employee at the farm admitted that he didn’t let them out enough because eggs laid outside got dirty and workers were too “lazy” to clean them.  (‘Freedom Food’ sham exposed)

As I said before, these are not isolated incidents.   Learn more about organic, free-range, and other “humane” animal products at our page: What do all the labels mean? or check out our other blog entries on the subject here.

The duck has been named!

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Sorry for taking so long with this, but we’ve finally closed the duck name poll. The winning name is “Marty Gras”!

All of the results can be seen on our website.

Thanks for voting.

Here’s a video of Marty dancing up a storm at Justice Rocks over the weekend.

Have you voted for the duck’s name yet?

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

We’ve gotten quite a few votes for a name for our new duck mascot. So far the top contenders are Quackers, Puddles, and Harmony. Marty Gras, Webster, and Count Duckula are still in the running.

What is your favorite? If you haven’t voted yet, head on over to our main website and vote. Voting will end on this coming Friday (July 31).

Once the duck has a name he’ll be much more comfortable being out on the street spreading the word about how awesome ducks are and how terrible it is to keep them away from water (not to mention that awful force-feeding) and confined indoors.

Previous posts about the duck:

Name that duck!

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Our duck was out again today on Commercial Drive. Here’s a short video:

He escaped from a foie gras farm, where he was force-fed twice a day. His not-so-lucky brothers were force-fed until their livers swelled up to about 10x their normal size. All this for a delicacy that benefits no one.

We’re searching for a name for the duck. If you have any suggestions, email them to me. We’ll be putting up a poll so that everyone can vote on the most popular submissions. We’ve gotten “Marty Gras”, “Quackers”, “Puddles”, and more.

Please help!

Quack! Our Canada Day Adventure

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

We recently got a duck mascot costume (thanks to NARN for the info on that) so we decided to take him out for the afternoon on Canada Day.

Saying hello

Saying hello

Ducks can dance!

Ducks can dance!

He hasn’t been named yet. If you have any ideas for a name, email your ideas to Becci. We’ll select the top choices and let everyone vote!

Hooray! This duck is free!

Hooray! This duck is free!

In 2 hours we gave out all of our 500 leaflets. Being out with a costume of any animal is such fun, since people just love to take pictures and have their pictures taken with the mascot. Little kids loved the duck!

His entourage passed out leaflets and talked about the issues of force-feeding and foie gras production.

The staff of Lush are awesome!

The staff of Lush are awesome!

It’s nice to do a positive about foie gras. So often they turn into negative sorts of events. The people who make and sell foie gras (there are many who sell it here in Vancouver) try to make themselves out to be the victims, but the real victims are the ducks who are force-fed for no reason other than gluttony.