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Time to Ban Foie Gras

Posted by at 4:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)


With California’s foie gras ban poised to take effect in less than two months, some of the Golden State’s chefs are scrambling to mount a last-minute campaign to overturn the ban. Birds raised for foie gras are force-fed up to 4 pounds of grain and fat every day via a pneumatic tube that is rammed down their throats—a process that former California Sen. John Burton colorfully describes as “doing the equivalent of waterboarding.”

California should uphold its ban on foie gras—and the rest of the U.S. should follow the state’s progressive lead.

Burton, who spearheaded California’s ban and built in a seven-year grace period specifically to allow California’s lone foie gras producer, Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras, to come up with an alternative to force-feeding birds, has no patience for the chefs’ last-ditch appeal.

“They’ve had all this time to figure it out and come up with a more humane way,” he said. “I’d like to sit … them down and have duck and goose fat—better yet, dry oatmeal—shoved down their throats over and over and over again.”

Force-feeding causes the birds’ livers to swell to as much as 10 to 12 times their normal size, resulting in a painful disease known as hepatic steatosis (which makes foie gras a diseased organ and therefore illegal to sell in the U.S., according to a lawsuit filed this month by several animal protection groups). The birds often suffer from internal hemorrhaging, fungal and bacterial infections, and hepatic encephalopathy, a brain disease caused when their livers fail. They can become so debilitated that they can move only by pushing themselves along the ground with their wings.

A journalist who visited Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras in 2003 reported that force-fed ducks “moved little and panted” with the effort, and an employee admitted that “[s]ome [ducks] die from heart failure as a result of the feeding, or from choking when they regurgitate.”

A recent undercover investigation at the farm revealed filthy, bedraggled birds (failure to preen is a sign of illness or distress), birds panting and struggling to breathe, birds who were too ill to stand, and even the bodies of dead birds among the living. An average of 20 percent 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. Dr. Christine Nicol, a tenured poultry husbandry professor at the University of Bristol, believes that foie gras production “causes unacceptable suffering to these animals. … It causes pain during and as a consequence of the force-feeding, feelings of malaise as the body struggles to cope with extreme nutrient imbalance and distress ….”

Foie gras production is so cruel that it has been banned in more than a dozen countries, including Israel, the U.K., Germany, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland, and it will be outlawed throughout the European Union by 2020.

Really, the only people defending foie gras are those who produce it and cook with it, and with thousands of other delectable ingredients available, it’s hard to imagine why chefs are fighting tooth and, er, bill to hang onto this deadly “delicacy.” Their objections should be filleted, puréed, flambéed and stuffed. Surely, any creative chef worth his or her artisanal sea salt can make do without a tortured duck’s liver.

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14 Comments

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    Norma Campbell says...

    May 25th, 2012, 8:39 pm

    Why would anyone eat a knowingly diseased organ? If our Liver becomes diseased we see a doctor and get treated. Makes no sense to me. I have tried it it tastes terrible and the idea of what it is and how it is obtained is enough to gag a maggot.

    Joan Squires says...

    May 25th, 2012, 9:05 pm

    The liver of any animal is the organ that filters toxins from the body. It is not something that should be part of anyone’s diet because when you eat an animal’s liver you are ingesting the toxins that have been in that animal’s body. So not only is foie gras a horrible, inhumane menu choice it is also one of the most unhealthy things anyone can eat! It should be banned because of the cruelty and inhumane treatment of the ducks and because it is a health risk for humans who eat it!

    Krystie Grubba says...

    May 25th, 2012, 9:36 pm

    Is there any petitions we can sign or e-mail addresses that we can contact to stop this cruelty?

    Glenn Sorino says...

    May 25th, 2012, 10:18 pm

    So horrific and unnecessary. Let’s ban together to end this barbaric practice.

    Kelly Rogers says...

    May 25th, 2012, 11:51 pm

    What they do to these animals is beyond brutal and needs to end.

    Kelly Rogers says...

    May 25th, 2012, 11:52 pm

    What they do to these animals is way beyond brutal and torturous and needs to stop Now

    Heather M says...

    May 26th, 2012, 1:15 am

    Foie gras is an extremely cruel method of force feeding geese, ramming it down their necks, huge amts of grain. This damages their livers etc and so can’t be good for the consumer either. A practice that should be outlawed. Gandhi said that the moral progress of a Nation was determined by how it treated its animals.

    Adam says...

    May 26th, 2012, 3:05 am

    Very good article, I hope July comes as quickly as it can, so we can celebrate this new law in California! Also I hope the police applies the law and keeps an eye on restaurants serving foie!
    I didn´t know that the European Union was going to ban production in 2020, 8 years still of torture for these poor ducks! Why do they take so long! But the California law is better, because it prohibits production and consumption, so it means that there will be no legal foie, but maybe some ilegial foie, but it will become liked drugs, only addictives will be able to eat it.
    Adam from Barcelona, Catalunya.

    Hervé Bérard says...

    May 26th, 2012, 7:42 am

    What a good news !

    Hervé ( from France, … longing for 2020 ;-)) )

    Marybeth Pearson says...

    May 26th, 2012, 1:01 pm

    I would sign a Nation-Wide Petition against Foie Gras. Anyone practicing animal cruelty should be put in jail.

    chander kumar soni says...

    May 26th, 2012, 1:45 pm

    please ban this rubbish.

    John D'Ambra says...

    May 26th, 2012, 2:32 pm

    The disgustingly cruel FACTS speak for themselves. ALL FOR THE PLEASURE OF A HANDFUL of persons who could not care less about anything but their own WANTS:

    Birds raised for foie gras are force-fed up to 4 pounds of grain and fat every day via a pneumatic tube that is rammed down their throats—a process that former California Sen. John Burton colorfully describes as “doing the equivalent of waterboarding.”

    cynthia cook says...

    May 27th, 2012, 1:48 pm

    HUMAN ‘MANKIND’…….WHAT THE…. MAKES ME SICK…THAT IS WHY I AM A VEGAN…

    Tina Max says...

    May 29th, 2012, 11:13 am

    I have no sympathy for any human who consumes this product with all it’s known toxins, they deserve to get sick, period!

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