On 1 July, California is poised to become the first state in the US to ban foie gras. The ban was actually passed in 2004, with more than a seven-year grace period to give California's sole foie gras producer time to implement reforms and figure out a way to produce the dreadful "delicacy" without force-feeding ducks and geese. The producer didn't achieve either goal, and now it has procrastinated itself out of business. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.
I may have been typecast in Hollywood as a bad guy, but there is something inherently sinister about force-feeding birds to the extent that their livers balloon up to 10 times their normal size. California was right to ban this barbarity, and in the UK, where force-feeding is prohibited, a ban on the sale of products from this suffering is long overdue.
Birds raised for foie gras are force-fed up to 2kg grain and fat a day through a tube that is shoved down their throats – a process that one California politician describes as "the equivalent of waterboarding". Force-feeding birds such an enormous amount of food results in a painful disease known as hepatic steatosis, or fatty liver disease. The birds also often suffer from internal haemorrhaging, as well as fungal and bacterial infections.
A New York Times reporter who visited California's foie gras farm found that force-fed ducks "moved little and panted", and an employee admitted to a journalist reporting for another publication: "Some [birds] die from heart failure as a result of the feeding or from choking when they regurgitate." An undercover investigation at the farm revealed filthy, bedraggled birds that struggled to breathe – some of which were too ill to stand – and even the bodies of dead birds among the living.
Nonetheless, American farms are a walk in the park compared with some French farms. Undercover video footage shot inside foie gras farms in France – the country that supplies much of the foie gras sold in the UK – has shown ducks crammed individually into shoebox-like cages that are barely larger than the birds' bodies. Their heads and necks protrude through a small opening for force-feeding. The ducks are confined in this way – unable even to stretch a wing or take a single step in any direction – for 24 hours a day. Many don't survive the ordeal: an average of 20% of ducks on foie gras farms die before slaughter, 10 to 20 times the average death rate on a regular duck farm.
Force-feeding birds has been denounced by every expert in the field of poultry welfare. The scientific consensus is so strong that foie gras production has been banned in 17 countries. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the Brit Awards, Wimbledon, Lord's Cricket Ground and the Royal Shakespeare Company have all promised in recent years not to serve or sell foie gras, and Prince Charles refuses to allow it on royal menus. Every major supermarket in Britain refuses to stock it, and large department stores, such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, have also removed it from their shelves following pressure from animal rights groups, including Peta. Even so, one long-established British institution continues to put profit before ethics by refusing to stop selling this torture in a tin.
Last year, I joined forces with my old nemesis, Sir Roger Moore, aka James Bond, to protest against Fortnum & Mason's sale of foie gras but, so far, our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. We may have been arch-enemies on screen, but we agree on one thing: the UK should follow California's lead and ban the sale of foie gras to prevent companies such as Fortnum & Mason from profiting from products of torture.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012