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A Second Chance to Ban Foie Gras in the U.S.

A Second Chance to Ban Foie Gras in the U.S.

Eating foie gras can make you very sick. Making foie gras always makes ducks and geese very sick, and then dead.

Buying or selling foie gras in interstate commerce is illegal based on the wording of a federal law passed by Congress, but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ignores that law to keep the foie gras coming. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Farm Sanctuary and others came together to petition the USDA to get its head out of the sand and acknowledge that foie gras violates the law. It didn’t.

So ALDF, Farm Sanctuary, Compassion Over Killing and others took the USDA to court where a judge might force it to do its job. In round one of the lawsuit the judge ruled that the USDA could carry on playing make-believe that foie gras passes legal muster. ALDF and friends decided to take another swing by appealing that ruling to a higher court on May 17th.

The law that the USDA selectively ignores is the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). It forbids “the movement or sale in interstate or foreign commerce of…poultry products which are adulterated.” Adulterated means that a poultry product, like foie gras, is for any reason “unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or otherwise unfit for human food.”

Foie Gras is Unhealthful, Unwholesome and Unfit for Human Food Because it Can Make People Very Sick

The petition that the anti-foie gras coalition filed with the USDA described the health dangers of eating foie gras. It estimated that the pate is particularly dangerous for people who have or are prone to develop an inflammatory disease. 22.3 million Americans already have rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease or type II diabetes. But there are other inflammatory diseases, and foie gras is also a threat to people prone to develop any inflammatory disorder, so the total number of people at risk from foie gras is much higher than that.

People with inflammatory diseases are at higher risk of developing secondary amyloidosis from eating foie gras. Symptoms of amyloidosis include:

  • Bleeding in the skin
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Numbness of hands and feet
  • Rash
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Swollen arms or legs
  • Swollen tongue
  • Weak hand grip
  • Weight loss

There is no treatment for amyloidosis.

I’d call that unhealthful.

Making Foie Gras Tortures Birds

Liver pate is also unhealthful, and most certainly unsound, for the birds whose livers become the pate. To get from healthy liver to fatty, diseased liver, i.e. foie gras, producers force feed ducks and geese for four weeks, then kill them.

I described this process in an earlier Care2 Causes post, based on ALDF’s descriptions in another lawsuit:

Foie gras producers call force-feeding “gavage,” and they start doing it when ducks are thirteen weeks old. Two to three times a day, “an inflexible, unlubricated [ten-inch] tube is forcibly inserted into” the duck’s esophagus while she is restrained. The tube delivers way too much corn mash “directly into the bird’s stomach.” Every day a little more food is crammed in.

With all that food one might think the ducks would at least be well-nourished, but no such luck. In the petition to the USDA, ALDF wrote that “an analysis of feed actually used in the production process confirmed that [it] was nutritionally inadequate and a contributing factor to the disease.”

Many diseases afflict birds who are victims of gavage, according to the petition.

  • central nervous troubles such as circling movements, epileptiform crisis, and increase of the intracranial pressure accompanied by migraines, and finally stupor, coma and death;
  • pneumonia;
  • secondary infections;
  • hepatic lipidosis, characterized by depression, diarrhea, biliverdinuria, obesity, poor feathering, dyspnea, and abdominal enlargement;
  • hepatic encephalopathy, characterized by seizures, ataxia, and muscle tremors.

I don’t understand all of those words, but the ones I do know are enough to paint an excruciating picture: migraines, depression, diarrhea, seizures, muscle tremors — wow. Some of the birds don’t live long enough to complete the two to four week gavage process.

ALDF points out that gavage also causes painful wounds to birds’ beaks and throats, and usually makes them “so uncomfortable and top heavy [that their] legs won’t” hold them and they can’t move normally. Birds who fall ill “may be simply tossed onto a trash heap.”

The judicial system has another chance to make things right and put an end to this nightmare. Let’s hope that this time the judges do the right thing.


Related Stories:

Is Calling Foie Gras ‘Humane’ False Advertising?

Lawsuit Seeks Foie Gras Ban in U.S.


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Photo: Bertuz/flickr

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6:37AM PDT on Jul 2, 2013

thanks for sharing

11:27AM PDT on Jun 23, 2013

Thank you, Irene S. On "animal rights" issues, no one ever seems to listen to anyone else but you did and you think deeply about these issues. Thank you for that.

And, yes, foie gras definitely can be produced humanely - I've seen it done - but, of course, the ducks and geese are eventually eaten and the majority of people contributing to this thread finds that horrible but what the are deluding themselves about is that plants are sentient, too, and no animal, including humans, can exist without eating other sentient beings. That's Original Sin. Unfortunate but true.

10:13AM PDT on Jun 23, 2013

I was interested to see Irene's link to foie gras produced WITHOUT force feeding.
Why can't they all do it like that?
I know you shouldn't always believe something just because its on the internet but when you see video footage of birds being force fed and kept in cages where they can't turn around its hard to refute.
I'm still glad we banned it in my country.

8:24PM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

the people who Torture the ducks for the foie gras
& the FDA who allow the interstate commerce laws to be broken to transport the foie gras Should be FORCE FED FOIE GRAS until their stomachs overflow.
OH MY ! but that would be attempted murder ! or assault !

as someone else posted on various articles:
ORGANIZED CRIME & I will add to that :

5:43AM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

@Geraldine C. I have to apologize for my post on May 29. Because we all saw the horrible pictures of poor force-fed birds, I was not able to believe it might be possible to "produce" foie gras in a different way. But as so often, it´s a problem of industrial farming.
I found this article on "Take Part" wich might be a trustworthy sorce.

No one of us knows, what the animals would prefer. A few months or years of happy and save life and then a sudden death, or maybe hours, days, weeks or years facing every adversity a "free" life could adhere and ending up in a predators gullet, or maybe never being born.
Everyone has to make their own desicion about eating or not and no one found the philosopher´s stone of preventing the death of their food to date. Maybe exept of those who eat fruit only. And even their immune system kills millions of other organisms every day to stay alive.

10:28AM PDT on Jun 9, 2013

Even microbes inhabiting other planets would not believe the depths of stupidity and imorality exhibited by human bipeds on human species degraded earth.

9:49AM PDT on Jun 9, 2013

Geraldine: duck farms? Anyone who is involved with this foie gras horror industry, is guilty and the only interest is sadistic profiteering at the expense of animals. There is nothing so special about human farmers btw, most commercial farmers and livestock breeders and slaughterers are a totally unnatural human invention and constitute a disease on the ecosystems. The earth is far better off without them.

8:44AM PDT on Jun 7, 2013

Oh no, what idiots we are in the UK, we've gone and banned it for no reason! What are we thinking? It's perfectly humane!

5:17AM PDT on Jun 6, 2013

“Their windpipes become so thickened; inflamed; bruised; and infected that they would be unable to eat of their own accord.”

Hope this (latest) blog helps the anti foie gras cause. Also see 2 petitions:

7:15AM PDT on Jun 4, 2013

I will sign any petition about this issue. Anytime, any place, anywhere.

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