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SICK & BARBARIC; MIRROR INVESTIGATES FOOD HORRORTV; Heston dumps supplier after we reveal ducks for his foie gras are kept in conditions welfare groups say amount to torture.


CELEBRITY chef Heston Blumenthal has dumped his supplier of foie gras after the Mirror obtained shocking undercover film footage.

The videos show ducks caked in filth and vomit from overfeeding. Some of the birds were writhing in agony from damaged throats and bloodied feet.

Campaigners described the conditions and treatment of the ducks as "torture".

Experienced vet Amir Kashiv called the film footage a "representation of hell".

The videos were filmed at a French farm that was supplying foie gras, the livers of ducks or geese, to Heston's up-market Fat Duck restaurant.

The production of the controversial delicacy involves the helpless birds being force-fed by having metal pipes inserted into their throats.

They are fattened up in this way so their livers are up to 10 times their normal size.

Heston thanked the Mirror for bringing the footage to his attention. He said he has immediately stopped using the supplier.

Justin Kerswell, campaigns manager of animal charity Viva!, said: "These images of foie gras production are horrendous and some of the worst we have ever seen.

"Ducks caged, scared and clearly in distress; birds too exhausted to move. There are no ifs and buts - this is torture."

Foie gras production is classed as so cruel it has been banned in Britain.

But imports from other countries are not controlled.

The videos show the workings of a farm run by Maison Mitteault, a family-owned supplier which proudly boasts its motto as "quality, nothing but quality".

But the reality behind closed doors could not be more different.

Although the ducks have a period of living outside they spend a miserable two weeks before slaughter stuck in a window-less shed being force fed. The footage was filmed over a five-month period in huts on its main farm in Chalandray in the Poitou-Charentes region of France.

Many ducks, at least one of which was dead, are covered in feed and vomit. Some peck other birds in cages.

Dead ducks lie abandoned on the floors. Some have slit abdomens.

One duck was so exhausted it had collapsed and could not lift its head or wings as other ducks stepped over it.

The ducks, some confined in cages little bigger than their own bodies, are often seen panting for air.

But the majority of birds in the footage are in group cages.

The close-up footage shows just how painful the process is for the ducks.

A silver scraper goes into the cages and pushes the ducks forward for feeding.

Some of them cower but are grabbed forcefully by a worker holding the 6in-long steel feeding tube which is put in their throats to dispense the corn.

TV vet Steve Leonard said: "The animals in these videos are clearly distressed.

"The pictures reveal birds kept in dreadful conditions with little or no evidence of concern for their welfare. This is not an acceptable husbandry method on so many grounds."

Duck expert Dr Marc Cooper, who works with the RSPCA, called for the production and sale of foie gras to be banned. He said: "The practice should have no place in civilised society.

"This footage confirms the risks associated with foie gras production, which includes injury to the birds' oesophagus due to multiple insertions of the feeding tube, distress from restraint and the force feeding process and compromised health resulting from obesity, including impaired movement and lethargy."

The Fat Duck in the village of Bray, Berkshire, is ranked in the world's top 25 restaurants. It serves roast foie gras as part of its PS220 tasting menu.

A growing number of celebrities including Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley, and Sir Roger Moore have expressed their disgust at how the food is produced.

A spokesman for the Fat Duck said: "The video does not in any way represent the farm or the standards of farming that were shown to our chefs on their extensive visit to Maison Mitteault.

"We were shocked at the video and the conditions in which the ducks were apparently kept.

"We were shown the highest standards of animal husbandry when we visited the farm.

"We visit all of our suppliers as we believe that the best tasting food comes from animals that have been reared as humanely as possible and from producers who practise ethical farming standards.

"We are stringent with the suppliers we select and expect them to achieve the highest standards in their field, as we strive to achieve in ours.

"On our visit to Maison Mitteault, we were shown a wellrun family duck farm which did not need or use preventative vaccines or medicines, instead they analyse the soil and feed etc offering a more healthy environment for the ducks.

"The farm mill their own feed comprising different ratios of corn, soya bean, red field bean plus minerals such as calcium and all ingredients originate 20km from the farm. The ducks were all free range, only coming inside to feed in individual pens.

"The birds we saw were healthy and strong and showed no sign of distress.

"The findings of this article have alerted us to what seems to be a change in practice and we have immediately ceased to use Maison Mitteault with immediate effect and would like to thank the Daily Mirror for bringing this to our attention."

Farm owner Louis-Marie Mitteault said: "These are shocking images.

"If they were taken on my farm, and I am not sure they are, then I would be very angry.

"We take animal welfare very seriously here. For 25 years we have looked after our animals. French TV were here last week and they were very impressed by how we looked after our animals.

"I would like you to visit us and see the high standards we have.

"We are very open. There are groups looking to destroy foie gras production - especially at this time of year."

Producers in France routinely pile up dead ducks inside the sheds for disposal by workers on the next shift.

Last year we revealed that celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay had dumped foie gras supplier Ernest Soulard after we exposed shocking conditions at their farms in the Vendee region of France.

We exposed cruelty in the duck sheds that resulted in animals lying dead or dying from exhaustion.

The story caused revulsion and headlines around the world and led to supermarkets in Denmark banning foie gras.


"With immediate effect we have ceased to use this supplier FAT DUCK SPOKESMAN ON RESTAURANT'S SHOCK "These images are horrendous. They are some of the worst we have ever seen JUSTIN KERSWELL FROM ANIMAL CHARITY VIVA!


CONTROVERSY Foie gras on the menu at The Fat Duck, inset. Right, renowned celebrity chef Heston

GRIM Dead bird with feed and blood in mouth

CUT OPEN Ducks with slit abdomens

PILING UP Abandoned dead birds

CAGE AGONY Ducks are force-fed at the farm
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 12, 2014
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