Village Voice Foie Gras Article

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Village Voice Foie Gras Article

Ducks huddled as far from the feeder as possible. Imagine being subjected to something this invasive against your will everyday for three weeks? For no good reason?

Ducks huddled as far from the feeder as possible. Imagine being subjected to something this invasive against your will everyday for three weeks? For no good reason?

I just (finally) read the pro-foie gras article published in the Village Voice. It’s about the author’s visit to Hudson Valley Foie Gras farm, and includes an extensive slideshow of photos of the farm.

I find it interesting that looking at these photos, and the conditions these ducks are raised and force-fed in, makes me even more convinced that foie gras is a pretty bad thing. I wonder if this is just that I’m ready to be convinced of my own point of view? Which makes me think that the pro-foie gras side would be pretty much the same, convinced by whatever they see that foie gras is ok.

But what about the unconvinced? What will they think about these photos and the article? I’m curious to see.

An important point about this article is that it’s about Hudson Valley, which is somewhat different than the farms that produce foie gras here in Canada. They keep their ducks in small group pens for the force-feeding period, which lasts 21 days. Here in Canada the farms confine the ducks in individual cages for the force-feeding period, which lasts 14 days. This individual confinement seems to be the standard here and in France and Belgium. (See the EU report…)

Hudson Valley keeps the ducks in huge barns on wood shavings for the first portion of their lives. At no point do the ducks have access to water to swim in. This for me is really enough to have huge problems with any form of duck farming. Ducks have evolved as waterfowl. Taking a duck away from the water seems like it would be like making a chicken live their whole life IN the water. It’s just not natural.

The use of wire-bottomed cages to confine the ducks (in groups) is another point against this type of farming. Wire-bottomed cages are a convenience for the farmer, as they cut down on time required for cleaning of bedding. For 21 days these ducks are kept without bedding resting only on wire. These are animals evolved to swim and fly, not to sit in one place for three weeks on a wire mesh. That they are sitting completely still is sad, as ducks in the wild spend their days wandering about, searching for food and socializing.

You can see when the ducks are slaughtered that their undersides are filthy and discoloured. This is likely because they cannot reach their undersides to clean themselves due to their obesity.

Frankly, since foie gras is not something that we need to eat, not by any stretch of the imagination, how can we justify doing any of this to ducks? Taste alone can’t justify this.

Also, here in BC, the BC Organic standards and the SPCA Certification prohibit the use of confinement systems. Why? Because according to these standards, their living spaces should allow for as close to a natural lifestyle as possible. Confining and force-feeding is diametrically in opposition to this. It’s completely shocking that restaurants that take pride in supporting local and humane farms also support farms that utilize intensive farming practices like these foie gras farms.

The crowding of ducklings into barns, with a bedding of wood shavings. Nothing like a duck's natural habitat.

The crowding of ducklings into barns, with a bedding of wood shavings. Nothing like a duck's natural habitat.

These are the confinement pens where the ducks are kept in groups. Imagine living in your cubicle with 5 other people for three weeks, unable to leave.

These are the confinement pens where the ducks are kept in groups. Imagine living in your cubicle with 5 other people for three weeks, unable to leave. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Kept on a wire mesh floor, the ducks huddle together (this is what ducks do when they are afraid)

Kept on a wire mesh floor, the ducks huddle together (this is what ducks do when they are afraid). What in the world does "fairly clean" mean? How dirty is acceptable?

You can see how filthy the duck's underside is.

You can see how filthy the duck's underside is.

More examples of jsut how dirty the ducks are. Do you see the one who is bleeding?

More examples of just how dirty the ducks are. Is one bleeding?

Note: The photos are all from the slideshow that accompanies the article.



February 23, 2009 at 11:10 pm

It makes me sick just thinking about it.

Ducks loooooove to swim more than anything in the world! The more water there is, the more they love it. What we humans consider miserable weather (heavy rain and stormy weather) the ducks just can’t get enough of it. Ever tried to get a duck to go inside when it’s raining? You can forgetaboutit! They just love love love that water. Once during a stormy night (the rain was so heavy I could have used wipers for my glasses) at Farm Sanctuary, I had to get the ducks and geese back to their sheds for the night. The geese waddled back to their sheds without much persuasion. But the ducks just swam in circles in the centre of the pond and refused to come anywhere near the shore. I had to get into these huge rubber overall/gum boot thingies and wade to the centre of the pond to try to get them. I didn’t end up getting them in that night. I had to call for backups. And this didn’t just happen one night, it happened every time it was raining.

It gets me really angry when the foodies think that it’s “humane” to keep ducks in dry barns. What do they think the webbed feet are for?

Ed Coffin

February 24, 2009 at 7:42 am

I think it’s amazing that anyone can be pro-foie gras. It’s almost as ridiculous as being pro-fur.


February 24, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Fantastic post.


March 10, 2009 at 4:05 am

I had just spent 6 weeks in Uganda as part of my final school practicum. The poverty there is, as one could imagine from watching TV commercials, rampant, and most people don’t h have enough to eat. A lot of the people’s diet there include cooking bananas, beans, and rice, sometimes all three items would be on the same plate if one is lucky.

I was working as a volunteer with a faith-based organization (I, myself, am not religious in any sense whatsoever) which employed many Ugandans, buidling gravity-flow water pipes for various communities. I enjoyed my time in Uganda fine, although the biggest “shock” I had was regarding the food and diet. I grew up eating a mixture of Asian and Western cuisine, and the sudden diminishment in the variety of food and, what we westerners have come to take for granted, food groups and thus nutrients, took me a while to adjust. I did became accustomed to the dietary practices, because I love all food, and it was jut a part of the way of life there.

Once a week or so, at the camp I was staying in, we would have meat, which is a luxury by average Ugandan culinary standards; and it is safe to say that they only did so to accomodate us Westerners. Most of the time the meat (usually beef) comes from a local butcher, but once in a while we would buy a goat and give it to the Ugandans as a gift. Now, whenever a goat is bought for the purpose of food, it is always a festivity at the camp. Men would spend hours butchering, fabricating, and cooking the goat, and the smell of roasted meat would linger throughout the camp on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, where everyone is happy to have the day off, and looking forward to the feast ahead. Music would be playing on the radio, people would be dancing, and the general feeling would be: life is good, God (if one exists; Ugandans are deeply religious) has blessed everyone, and we need to love one another for these blessings.

After spending a few weeks there, I had the chance to participate in the butchering of a goat, which I pitched in to buy. We’d had the goat at the camp for a week by then, and we treated her well. When the time came for the goat to become dinner, I asked one of the Ugandan staff (who usually does the butchering) if I could have the honour of taking the goat’s life. I wanted to do so because I wanted to know where my food come from, I wanted that connection with my food, and I wanted to honour the goat, be there with her during her last moments. It is a deeply intimate relationship, I suppose, different from the intimacy we know as human beings.

But alas, I didn’t get to take the goat’s life, someone else (another fellow Canadian) jumped at the chance (I was just a bit hesitant) and went through with it. But I did stood by his side, and the goat’s side, as we watched blood drained out of the goat. The goat struggle for a bit, and didn’t make any noises; we took turns holding her down, but since there wasn’t much struggle, it was more like extended petting, as the goat drifted into sleep.

Then we watched as our Ugandan colleagues skinned and gutted the goat, and fabricdated it for cooking. Again, the whole thing was done with a lot of respect, because they understood that what they were about to receive is a gift.
After that, the goat was cooked in two different ways, and everyone was delighted to receive it for dinner. After dinner we sang ad danced, everyone again was grateful for everytthing that day.

So what’s the point of my story, for I am responding to a post on foie gras? Well, I like foie gras, and I am proud of the fact that Canada is a foie gras producer. Like the goat in Uganada, I think that there is an enormous opportunity for us Canadians to be more involved in our food, whether it’s growing one’s own vegetable, animals for meat, or even picking out a calf on a farm, watch it grow and then have it slughtered humanely so one can take it home to feed the whole family. Foie gras has the potential to be produced with this level of respects. The production and cooking of foie gras are traditions I think have to be preserved, for this enlarged liver is not just something people pay a lot of money to enjoy, but more importantly, it is part of a tradition that the French people are extremely proud of (I am speaking here, of course, of the French culinary tradition, which has been proposed to be designated a protected heritage). Sure some foie gras farmer may not have the best practices raising their ducks/goose and livers, but that’s something can be regulated, and us citizens can advocate for a more humane practice. An out-right ban on foie gras does not make animal right issues go away, but merely give one the false sense of accomplishment and undignified, undeserved victory over nothing in particular.

From what I have read on your website and online journal articles, your tactics used to “rid of” foie gras in Vancouver is nothing more than propaganda, and intimidation tactics, playing on people’s desire to be more connected with their environment, surrounding, and nature. You present people with a skewed and biased point of view, while completely negating other people’s professional opinions like a bully with veto power on the United Nations Security Council. As a result, people blindly agree with your rhetorics, participate in group-think mentality, and in return they get a false sense of righteousness which may sit warmly in their belly like a ho lump of coal initially, but it is doomed to become black and cold, and sit like… well, a black and cold lump of coal.

if you want to make the world a better place, start with the people first. For God’s sake, go to a third world country and help the people there, because without bringing the people up to speed, there is not point talking about anything else. If people don’t know any better, they will continue to torture, murder, rape, committ genital mutilation, and traffick children for the purpose of sex and slavery. People will continually be prosecuted for their religious and political beliefs, while others will continually to profit at the demise of others. And where do animals fit in all this? Nowhere! Because people are too busy to ensure their own survival to see animals as more than dinner food, if they are lucky to have meat that night.

I am sure your intentions are good to begin with, but I am afraid that your ideals are misguided, and your efforts are very much misdirected. Food is a wonderful thing, and it is a very important part of many culture in our world. You take that away from someone, you take away a piece of their identity. There is a more hormonious way to live in this world, but taking hot-dogs out of a Scout camping trip isn’t one of them.

Write a letter: Remove Foie Gras from your menu in Vancouver and Whistler « Vancouver Animal Rights Campaigns (VARK)

January 24, 2012 at 11:42 am

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