Say Au Revoir To Foie Gras

By Heather Moore

Citing food-safety and sanitation concerns, the United States Department of Agriculture recently banned certain French meat products, including foie gras-the so-called "delicacy" made from the enlarged livers of ducks and geese-from entering the U.S. Foie gras production is so cruel that consumers should celebrate this ban. Now our government should go a step further and make foie gras disappear from menus and supermarket shelves entirely.

France is the world's biggest foie gras producer, the fatty liver is also made in a few other countries, including the U.S. The major American producers are Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York and Sonoma Foie Gras in California.

Birds raised for foie gras are normally confined to cages and fed a high-protein, high-starch diet that is designed to promote rapid growth. Farmers begin force feeding the birds when they are between 8 and 10 weeks old. For 12 to 21 days, up to 2 pounds of grain and fat is forced down ducks and geese' throats every day by a feeding tube, a process known as gavage.

The birds' livers become engorged and can grow to more than 10 times their normal size and 12 times the weight. They often have difficulty standing, and they tear out their own feathers and attempt to cannibalize one another as a result of stress. Izzy Yanay of Hudson Valley Foie Gras has admitted that the birds' "beak tips are cut off to prevent the ducks from cannibalizing each other."

Several years ago, a PETA investigator went undercover at Commonwealth Enterprises, a now-defunct foie gras production facility in New York. PETA's investigator saw birds with ruptured stomachs and gaping wounds in their necks caused by workers roughly shoving the feeding tubes down their throats. One duck had a maggot-covered neck wound so severe that water spilled out of it when he drank.

Because of the extreme cruelty, Germany and other European nations prohibit the production of foie gras, and force-feeding birds is "discouraged" in the United Kingdom and in Switzerland. The Israeli Supreme Court recently ruled that foie gras production violates the country's cruelty-to-animals laws and could be banned by 2005.

Residents of Sonoma, California, have petitioned their City Council not to allow the sale of foie gras within the city limits and State Senate President Pro Tem John Burton recently announced plans to introduce legislation to ban foie gras in California.

Many restaurants and hotels in the U.S no longer offer foie gras, the Smithsonian Institution previously canceled a lecture seminar on foie gras, the Boston Symphony Orchestra removed foie gras from its Tanglewood Wine and Food Classic and Williams-Sonoma stopped selling foie gras in its catalog. Foie gras is so cruel that even many ardent carnivores refuse to eat it.

It seems only a hoity-toity few find nothing wrong with causing such extreme suffering for the sake of a cholesterol-filled snack. But truly talented chefs can create a memorable meal without torturing animals. It's time we ban foie gras, not just from France, but from everywhere.

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