Foie gras proponents avoid the facts

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Foie gras proponents avoid the facts

When we are out protesting a restaurant that serves foie gras or out collecting petition signatures people occasionally come along who don’t agree with us. Sometimes they are even willing to stop and exchange a few words with us. What is odd, however, is that so often they are unwilling to deal with the actual facts of these ducks who are confined in cages and force-fed until their livers get 10 times the size they should be.

This avoidance of the central argument against foie gras is also pretty common when people write about our campaign. They are very willing to take shots at us personally or detour into discussions of our ultimate objectives or talk about other issues we should be dealing with. Almost never, however, does anyone speak directly to the cruelty of force-feeding ducks until they are nearly dead.

I wonder why this is?

For some more information about foie gras, visit our info page:
http://liberationbc.org/issues/foie_gras

Also of interest might be this page, which I just re-discovered a couple of days ago:
http://liberationbc.org/campaigns/foie_gras/fuel_facts

The BC SPCA has also come out in oppostion to the practice of force-feeding:
http://www.spca.bc.ca/foiegras/default.asp


5 Comments

Paul

February 10, 2009 at 7:40 am

I’d be happy to speak directly at you about the facts. While I don’t enjoy this delicacy personally, I have actually educated myself and will now do the same for you.
Ducks hoard food twice a year – once in the fall and once in the spring – to prepare for their migratory trips south and north, respectively. When doing so, their livers naturally grow to 6 to 8 times their natural sizes in order to store the extra fat needed to sustain them through weeks of all-day flying (ducks don’t stop every hour or so at a Quickie Mart like humans do for pee breaks and a Slim Jim). As they consume the fat in flight, the livers naturally heal themselves. It is a natural state of expansion that the ducks do to themselves.
In the force-feeding process that farmers provide, the ducks actually walk toward the farmer in anticipation of this…because it’s free food! There is no pain – ducks and geese have a hardened, bone-like sheath that lines their throats (again, unlike humans) – so there is no damage or harshness being done. In fact, the flexible tube that farmers use is softer than the hard grains that the ducks eat on their own, so it’s actually easier for the ducks to be “force-fed” than it is to eat for themselves – another reason they walk TOWARD the farmer and not away from him.
These ducks are not kept in cages (now you’re just making stuff up) but rather are raised free-range for years. Throughout those natural years of life, the ducks themselves engorge their own livers…so when the farmer does it one last time they notice no difference. For the last ten days of a duck’s life, which is a natural cycle that a duck will eat to fatten up for a migratory flight, the farmer feeds it with a tube. It is not a force-feeding in cages for years on end. It is a ten-day period where the ducks/geese come into their feeding pens from the range and willingly accept the feeding tube.
There is no part of the duck that is wasted. The tongues are sold in Asian markets, the feathers are sold to fly-fishing manufacturers and pillow-stuffing companies, the fat and skin are sold to culinarians, the meat is sold to just about anywhere…there is no waste.
So in response to your challenge that no one has spoken directly with you, I have to say that it’s no that anyone can’t come up with a strong argument against you, it’s that your statements are false to begin with. YOU have not substantiated your claims with any facts. You believe that force-feeding a duck to enlarge its liver is wrong because you think that a duck feels the same pain and has the same anatomy as a human – it doesn’t. It would hurt YOU if I force-fed you like that, but the ducks, on the other hand, actually have been found to get a euphoric feeling from the free food (just like you do after eating a holiday dinner).
I know that all of what I’ve just said takes the wind out of your sails, and I especially appreciate the fact that I’m the only one to post on your blog. I know you were hoping to be able to live in blindness for a while longer, but now there’s no more excuses – you’ve been educated finally.
I’m sure you don’t eat any animal flesh of any kind, nor do you use leather or any other animal byproduct like eggs or milk (which are contained in birthday cakes, breads, pastries, etc.) because an aborted chicken fetus is cruel. Don’t forget silk, cotton (which kills the weevil living inside it), honey, or fruits of any kind (which are the product of insect slave labor). Face it – you couldn’t exist without being a part of the food chain. It comes down to this: if you don’t like fois gras then don’t eat it. It’s not your call what I or anyone else chooses to eat.

liberationbc

February 10, 2009 at 9:03 am

Hi Paul, you make some interesting points, but let me see if I can correct some of your errors, since you’ve made a few.

“Ducks hoard food twice a year – once in the fall and once in the spring – to prepare for their migratory trips south and north”

The ducks used in foie gras production are mulards – a mule duck crossbred from Muscovy and Pekin ducks. Neither parent breed is migratory – in fact, Muscovy ducks are tropical. These ducks have never exhibited any migratory instincts.

Also, the natural gorging of the geese who were originally used for foie gras resulted in an enlarged liver that was about twice normal size, not 10 times. The geese were still able to fly, but the birds used for foie gras production often can’t even walk after the gavage period.

“These ducks are not kept in cages (now you’re just making stuff up) but rather are raised free-range for years.”

Ok, there are two points here. One is that ducks are not kept in cages. In an email I received from Sandie Boulet at Aux Champs d’Elisee in Quebec, the third largest foie gras producer in Canada, she says: “Our ducks (once in the gavage barn) are in individual cages.” I have seen countless videos of foie gras production, and it is now the industry standard to confine ducks in individual cages during the gavage period. You are correct that most farms have the ducks free in a barn during the time leading up to this period. I recall that Hudson Valley and Sonoma use pens which confine around six ducks in a small area. Those pens can be seen in Anthony Bourdain’s video about foie gras.

The other point here is that you say years. You appear to be under the impression that these ducks live for years. In fact, the lifespan of a duck on a foie gras farm is about 14 weeks. For the first 8 weeks or so, they are kept in a barn and can eat whatever they want. Then for the next 4 weeks they are fed a diet intended to toughen up their esophagus. Then they go into the gavage sheds for the last two weeks (longer for geese). This is much shorter than even a year – I wonder where you got the idea that they live for years? There are almost no animals used for food that live even one year…

“There is no part of the duck that is wasted.” This really doesn’t matter. We aren’t talking about waste here. We are talking about cruelty, and cruelty is not mitigated by the whole animal being used. Almost all of any animal is used in animal agriculture. Anything left over gets rendered and used in makeup, car tires, and pet food. So, I guess I don’t see why this matters at all?

“YOU have not substantiated your claims with any facts.” If you visit our foie gras information page you can check our original sources:
http://liberationbc.org/issues/foie_gras

Also of interest may be our response to Fuel’s pro-foie gras arguments:
http://liberationbc.org/campaigns/foie_gras/fuel_facts
Even Fuel seems more on target with their info than you!

“Face it – you couldn’t exist without being a part of the food chain. It comes down to this: if you don’t like fois gras then don’t eat it. It’s not your call what I or anyone else chooses to eat.”
Perhaps we couldn’t, but we certainly don’t need to force-feed an animal to survive. Any time that we are committing an injustice against another being, if it is unnecessary then it is wrong. We don’t need to do it, so we certainly shouldn’t. Once our choice transgresses on another’s life, then it is no longer a free choice. And someone needs to speak up for the animals who have their bodies destroyed by this process.

Here are some more resources that you can check out. The EU report on foie gras production is particularly interesting, and a good read, too. I am sure you will find them enlightening.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foie_gras
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foie_gras_controversy
http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/international/out17_en.pdf

Jamie

March 2, 2009 at 6:13 am

I wouldn’t specifically like to get in a discussion with you both as i can see you’re busy! But i’d say the point both of you’ve made are very interesting and i’m looking forward to your next post! Thank you!

Jake

October 5, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I can see you people have some strong moral objections to foie gras, and I think it important to have convictions. However, the manner in which your group is expressing its convictions — whether or not your point of view has scientific or moral merit — seems to me:

1. damaging to your own cause by coming off as masked terrorist animal nuts to people walking by, who if presented with a more coherent and reasonable argument may in a lot of cases agree with you.

2. extremely disrespectful to the general public who have the right to enter a public restaurant without masked lunatics screaming ‘killer!’ in their faces, and the faces of their small children. Seriously, what is wrong with you people? Do you have no decency? Do you consider the emotional well-being of ducks to be more important than that of children??? If so, then your priorities are extremely screwed up. If you are trying to piss off about 97% of people who see you, and make them hate your guts and your cause, then bravo, you are doing a fabulous job.

Obviously the tactic here is to blackmail restaurants into accepting your demands by annoying their customers and trying to create bad media coverage for them.

And even if this tactic works, this makes you liver fascists and terrorists. You have the right to eat whatever you like. You have the right to express yourself and go about your life free of harassment and violent repression. So does everybody else, whether you approve or not. Fascists.

Do people like you consider it a success to have shut down a Toronto restaurant serving foie gras, using the tact of making anonymous death threats to restaurant staff and their children?

Fine, stand there quietly without masks if you have the courage of your convictions; carry signs; offer propaganda leaflets covered with gory pictures for emotional exploitation to those who pass. But stop the crazy screaming. Get the hell out of people’s faces. Grab a freaking brain and get a hold of yourselves. This is a clear example of abuse of free speech in the interest of a political agenda.

It is the lunatic fringe like you that discredit entire movements.
You people need to get some serious counselling; get a job; eat some tasty duck livers; and get laid.

Glenn

October 5, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Hi Jake,
Thanks very much for the comments. I quite agree that standing in front a restaurant screaming at people while wearing a mask is the wrong way to go about it. I would also agree with you that making anonymous death threats is not the way to, which is why we’ve never done such a thing, and wouldn’t endorse it either.

We don’t organize protests where people wear masks (unless of course it’s a duck costume), and we don’t organize protests where people scream at anyone. Our tactic is to provide information to the public, information that is quite often hidden from view by people who make a profit from the suffering and exploitation of animals.

I think you must have us confused with some other group.

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