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No, foie gras isn’t humane: The case for ending sale of this cruelly produced duck product

2019-09-07

Taking ducks for gras-ted. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

We New Yorkers care deeply about protecting the most vulnerable among us, and that includes animals. It’s part of what makes us who we are, and we don’t shy away from it.

In the last few years, our great city has enacted a series of laws tackling some of the worst forms of animal cruelty, including laws protecting dogs raised in puppy mills, exotic animals kept in traveling circuses and sharks killed for the shark-fin trade. These historic accomplishments have been widely celebrated.

But there’s an elephant in the room, and in this case, it’s a duck.

Each year, thousands of ducks are slaughtered, and their diseased, fatty livers are sent to New York City to be sold as foie gras. Foie gras — French for “fatty liver” — is a luxury product made from duck (or goose) liver which has been artificially enlarged through force-feeding.

Force-feeding for foie gras involves shoving a foot-long metal or plastic tube down a duck’s throat and inhumanely pumping his stomach with so much feed that, after three times a day for several weeks, his liver swells up to 10 times its natural size.

Force-feeding can result in numerous illnesses and diseases, including hepatic lipidosis, bacterial and fungal infections, malnourishment and lameness. Force-feeding also causes several injuries: bruising or perforation of the esophagus; hemorrhaging and inflammation of the neck resulting from the repeated insertion of the pipe to the throat; and asphyxia caused by food improperly forced into the trachea.

Lastly, like all animals, including humans, ducks experience great fear, as well as acute and chronic stress, from the multiple daily force-feedings.

Numerous undercover investigations by animal protection charities have documented some of the most horrific cruelties happening to animals at Hudson Valley Foie Gras and other foie gras factory farms. Workers drag ducks by their necks along the wire floor and pin them between their legs before ramming the metal force-feeding tubes down their throats.

Dead ducks — killed by the cruel force-feeding process — are callously thrown away into trash bins. Birds with open, bleeding wounds are left to suffer without proper veterinary care. And fully conscious ducks are shackled upside down, their throats cut open.

This footage captured in 2013 by Mercy for Animals of force-feeding at Hudson Valley Foie Gras is so viscerally painful that it is hard to watch.

But we don’t have to rely on emotion alone to know that treating animals this way is wrong. The serious welfare issues related to force-feeding have been well-documented by independent experts and extensive scientific evidence has concluded what common sense already tells us: Ducks raised for force-fed foie gras suffer greatly.

Former wildlife pathologist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Ward B. Stone, has stated, “[T]he short tortured lives of ducks raised for foie gras is well outside the norm of farm practice. Having seen the pathology that occurs from foie gras production, I strongly recommend that this practice be outlawed.” We couldn’t agree more.

Foie gras is so inherently cruel that over a dozen countries have banned its production. Cities from Brussels to Sao Paulo, along with all of California and India, have gone a step further by banning the sale of the product as well.

Backed by 81% of New Yorkers — according to a recent poll, more than 50 not-for-profit organizations, 50 New York-based veterinarians including The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association — a national organization of more than 9,000 veterinary professional members — and a majority of New York City Council members, New York is on the verge of passing a citywide ban on the sale of foie gras from force-fed birds.

Here, once again, our city has the ability to stand on the right side of history by relegating a barbaric practice to the dustbin of history.

New York City is home to some of the world’s best and most diverse restaurants. Let’s prove to the world that we can eat well without causing such immense cruelty to animals.

Feldman Taylor is president of Voters for Animal Rights and Dominguez is the group’s political adviser.