Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More on the Actions to Ban Cruel Foie Gras: What is Foie Gras?

I wrote about Foie Gras and the amazing victory to ban in Chicago a couple weeks ago. You can see that posting here:

More on other campaigns to ban it.


Animal-rights groups target French delicacy


Scripps Howard News Service

Pate de foie gras, a pricey French delicacy made from duck or goose livers that's often found on gourmet restaurant menus, is the center of the latest raging political fight concerning the food on your plate.

Animal-rights groups have long contended that pate results from a cruel process in which ducks or geese are force-fed to make their livers diseased before slaughter. Foie gras farmers insist the process isn't cruel and note that it dates back to ancient Egypt, when it was devised as a delicacy for pharoahs' tables.

But the campaign to ban foie gras got a fresh push last month when Chicago's City Council voted to outlaw its sale in city restaurants and supermarkets. California last year approved a law banning the farming and sale of foie gras by 2012, unless another way is devised of producing the delicacy without force-feeding ducks.

Foie gras farmers say they've gotten the message and have formed the North American Foie Gras Producers Association to fight back and save their industry from legislation outlawing what they do.

"It's easy to come after us _ we're tiny. And we only cater to restaurants where rich people eat," said Izzy Yanay, co-owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York, one of the three major U.S. manufacturers. U.S. farmers produce about $25 million worth of foie gras a year.

Yanay, who processes about 300,000 ducks a year on his farm, is an enthusiast for foie gras. "It's one of the best delicacies in the world," he said.

But he's warning the food industry that if the campaign to legislate foie gras off menus is successful, then supermarkets and restaurants will face follow-up campaigns against other foods they sell _ like veal produced from calves kept in pens; pork from pigs kept in gestation crates, or eggs from caged chickens.

Yanay admits that the process of making pate de foie gras isn't attractive. "It sounds like a terrible thing, but that is not the case," he said. He said veterinarians inspecting his farm found no cruel practices, and he said the ducks don't seem to mind the process.

Animal-rights groups say the process of putting a funnel down the throat of a goose or duck, and then force-feeding the bird over 30 days, is unquestionably cruel. During the force-feeding, the bird's liver expands to six times its normal weight and becomes fatty _ an indication of chronic disease, the activists say.

Gene Bauston of Farm Sanctuary, one of the lead groups seeking laws banning foie gras, said society has a right through its laws to establish proper practices for how animals can be raised for food and to ban cruel farm practices.

"Laws are codified societal values, and we are a society that does not approve of animal cruelty," he said.

Bauston's organization is also campaigning against what it sees as cruel practices in industrialized farming, and he said the group's goal is legislation freeing chickens from cages and requiring veal and pigs to be raised in unconfined areas as nature intended.

Bauston said the campaign is gaining ground because Americans are increasingly concerned about how animals are treated on industrialized farms, and he said the legislative backlash reflects the growing revulsion for some of these practices.

"Chicago was a major victory. It sends the message that force-feeding of animals is not acceptable," he said.

Paul Shapiro, director of the factory-farming campaign at the Humane Society of the United States, said the effort to eradicate foie gras is only one issue on the agenda of farm reform, but it gets support because a ban on foie gras only affects a few gourmets, and the procedure of making swollen livers is unacceptably cruel.

"It's one of the most abusive practices" on farms that produce food for American tables, he said.

In banning foie gras production in California last year, the state legislature said it might permit the production of foie gras if an alternative to force-feeding practices were found, but Shapiro said no alternative seems likely.

Shapiro said the HSUS is pushing legislation to ban foie gras production in Massachusetts, New York and Illinois. Bills banning production died this year in Hawaii, Oregon and Washington state.

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