(US-ny) Fowl Feast - Hudson Valley Foie Gras
- For Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the future has never looked brighter. As
the world's largest producer of fine-quality foie gras, the Sullivan
County company has seen its sales explode in the last 10 years.
Thirty-three of Zagat's 50 top-rated restaurants in New York City have
Hudson Valley Foie Gras (HVFG) on their menus. And while per capita
consumption is still low in the United States, a product formerly
reserved for the super-rich is on the cusp of becoming the balsamic
vinegar of the next decade.
But there is a storm brewing in Sullivan County. Animal rights
activists have dubbed foie gras "fur food." At their urging,
California has recently joined Germany, Poland, Finland, Sweden, the
UK, and Israel in banning foie gras production, by 2012. The ban will
effectively put Sonoma Foie Gras, HVFG's only US competition, out of
Now the animal defenders are setting their sights on the Hudson Valley
and vowing to do whatever it takes to put Hudson Valley Foie Gras out
According to Sarahjane Blum, founder of the anti–foie gras group
Gourmet Cruelty, lack of information is what drives the industry.
"People either refuse to acknowledge how foie gras is made or they
don't know. This industry survives on people's willful ignorance," she
Blum is not the archetypal animal rights activist. The 26-year-old PhD
candidate is a life-long vegan, but somehow avoids the off-putting,
self-righteous attitude of most PETA-types. She claims she isn't
trying to tell people what to eat; she just wants to show them how it
ended up on their plate.
Blum said that she requested tours of both US foie gras farms. But
when her calls went unreturned, she led a group of activists on
several late-night, self-guided tours of both establishments—with a
video camera. The result is Delicacy of Despair, a 16-minute
documentary that promises a view "behind the closed doors of the foie
The film paints a grim picture. The activists found ducks kept in
isolation cages, ducks with malformed beaks and crippled feet. Some of
the ducks were so fat their legs could no longer support them. Farm
employees went about their business— roughly grabbing ducks by the
neck and jamming in feeding tubes. Trashcans overflowed with duck
corpses. There's even a shot of two ducks being eaten alive by rats.
The film is horrifying, and incredibly effective. But my many years in
television news has taught me that selective editing can make a bad
situation look a thousand times worse. To find out what was really
going on at a foie gras farm, I would have to visit one.
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