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April 06, 2009

Ducking Foie Gras

Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco and a long-time friend to The HSUS, did the right and principled thing recently when he removed foie gras from the menus of all eight of his PlumpJack restaurants. His humane move followed a resolution passed by the city’s Board of Supervisors both condemning foie gras production for its inherently abusive nature and commending restaurants that don’t serve this cruel product.


Foie gras is produced by force-feeding ducks and geese to the point where a state of disease is induced and their livers expand up to ten times their normal size. Its production and sale will be banned in California by 2012, thanks to the diligent work of California animal advocates and humane-minded legislators. More than a dozen nations have legislated against this cruelty.

All one needs to do is view some of the videos taken by animal advocates at foie gras factory farms to see that this cruelty has no place in our society.

Yet despite common sense and overwhelming science showing that routinely force-feeding animals vastly more than they’d eat is detrimental to their welfare (not to mention potentially harmful to consumers of the product), a few journalists lately have defended the industry. Some have even criticized anti-cruelty campaigners for caring about the issue, asserting that surely there must be more serious societal issues to deal with.

Such cries of protest remind me of when Matthew Scully, author of "Dominion," wondered how “a man rising in angry defense of a table treat has any business telling other people to get serious.”

That said, if there’s anything I’ve learned in more than 20 years of campaigning for animals, it’s that regardless of how pointless the cruelty, there will always be those who will excuse or defend it. The cockfighters say the birds fight voluntarily. The puppy millers claim they are just supporting a market demand. Aerial wolf killers say that they are protecting moose and caribou to keep game herd abundant for rural communities.

The fact is, some will say just about anything to defend cruelty. As Ruth Harrison, author of the groundbreaking 1964 anti-factory farming book "Animal Machines," wrote:

“If one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people."

It’s our job to take a stand and compel people to examine long-held assumptions. Foie gras should be an easy call for any person with a serious view of animal welfare. 

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