(US-ma) Foie gras under fire
- View Source[Milford Daily News]
NATICK -- A Brit visiting the United States recently walks through the
streets of Boston where activists are campaigning against foie gras.
One of the activists approaches the young man and asks him to sign the
group's petition. He looks at the petition and says, "Why should I do
that? Foie gras tastes (expletive deleted) delicious."
There you go, foie gras -- or fatty liver -- has been a popular
delicacy for centuries, dating as far back as 2500 B.C. when Egyptians
fattened up birds through force-feeding. Ancient Greeks and Romans
later continued the practice and France eventually mastered its
But these days, foie gras has come under attack from animal welfare
groups and politicians who believe the force-feeding of birds -- in
this case geese and ducks -- through a tube is torturous and cruel.
Foie gras production has already been banned in Chicago, California
and 16 countries and a ban of foie gras distribution in New Jersey has
been proposed. D'Artagnan, the largest foie gras distributor in the
United States, is located in New Jersey. No coincidence.
Yet foie gras remains in demand, according to Izzy Yanay, co-owner of
Hudson Valley Foie Gras, and the reason can be found in the British
man's comment. "It's the taste," he said.
Yanay was in Natick last month where he spoke about foie gras during a
special dinner at Maxwell's 148 that featured his company's foie gras
paired with wine from Paul Hobbs Winery. Founded in 1989 in Ferndale,
N.Y., Hudson Valley is the largest producer of foie gras in the United
States, generating 170 tons a year. Only two other companies produce
the product in America. The firm is co-owned by Michael Ginor, a
graduate of Brandeis University in Waltham.
"There's the perception that (foie gras) is obtained through the
suffering of animals, the perception that in order to produce foie
gras you have to torture animals," said Yanay, who has been in the
foie gras business for almost 30 years. At Hudson Valley, the foie
gras comes from moulard ducks.
Yanay warns against anthropomorphizing the force-feeding practice.
"People see the pictures and they don't want that happening to them,"
he said, "but ducks have a different esophagus from us. For example,
they don't have a gag reflex.
Yanay notes that activists have sought bans in states where foie gras
isn't produced. The practice avoids any company backlash and thus
becomes a political no-brainer, he adds. "(The activists) are smart,"
said Yanay. "They contact legislators and convince them to sponsor
these bills. They go from state to state, ban production where it
doesn't exist and eventually come to New York, where it does exist,
and say, 'How about you guys?' Then everything is going to go to
"(Activists) are behaving like rabid dogs," Yanay continued, noting
the rash of lawsuits filed against Hudson Valley. "They're shooting at
us from all directions. The evidence is we're not torturing animals,
but this is a good way to go after the animal industry."
Matt Prescott, a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA), disagrees with Yanay that animal welfare groups are
targeting the foie gras industry because it's small and not as
powerful as other industries.
"PETA has a long-running campaign against KFC, the largest purchaser
of chickens in the world," Prescott said. "We've had campaigns against
McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and other major players. While the
foie gras industry is small, the reason so many people, including the
pope, have condemned foie gras production is because it's so amazingly
cruel. Most other animals rights and animal welfare organizations have
campaigned against industries and companies much larger than foie
Prescott says PETA has video footage of diseased, sick and mistreated
ducks at Hudson Valley. "And that happens at every foie gras farm," he
Prescott didn't have any bons mots for AVMA either. "They're no friend
of animals by any standards," he said. "We've lobbied them to take
animal safety seriously."
Prescott points to a 2003 Gallup poll where 96 percent of Americans
said animals should be protected from cruelty.
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