EDITOR: As a wildlife biologist, I would like to correct some misstatements in Sunday's article about California's foie gras ban ("Foie gras fight over"). Ducks do have a gag reflex and in fact often vomit after being force fed. The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare of the European Union states that "the oropharyngeal area is particularly sensitive and is physiologically adapted to perform a gag reflex to prevent fluids from entering the trachea. Force feeding will have to overcome this reflex and hence the birds may initially find this distressing and injury may result."
Nor does force-feeding mimic natural behavior. Ducks eat frequent small meals to prepare for migration — they never gorge. These birds are not designed to metabolize fat at a high rate, as evidenced by how quickly it metabolizes in the liver, thus causing force-fed birds to quickly develop life-threatening diseases, including fatty liver disease (which is what foie gras is — a disease). Force-feeding is also linked to gastrointestinal diseases and blockages, spleen and blood disorders and respiratory illnesses.
There is nothing natural about shoving a pipe down birds' throats and pumping several pounds of mush a day into their stomachs, and California was right to ban it.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals