This week the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sued the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets and three foie gras producers in an effort to ban the sale of the controversial delicacy that is the result of force-feeding ducks and geese.
The lawsuit claims that force feeding, or gavage, causes liver disease and that “the product of a diseased animal” be labeled an adulterated food product and banned. It also says the department isn’t following the law and the three producers named, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Bella Poultry and La Belle Farm, knowingly played along.
“When the Department fails to condemn diseased poultry products, they are failing to comply with Agriculture and Markets Law section 200,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Countless birds are suffering because of the state of New York’s negligence. The state might not have a humane law like California, but it should at least be able to follow its own food safety law.”
Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the largest foie gras producer in the U.S., kills an estimated 250,000 birds annually and calls itself “The Humane Choice,” but there’s nothing humane about foie gras production. California producers were given seven years to find an alternative to force-feeding before a ban went into effect this July, but they came up with nothing. Clearly there is no humane way to intentionally give an animal a debilitating disease, but that doesn’t appear to stop producers from continuing to spread their ‘humane-washing claims.’
The process involves force-feeding birds large quantities of grain by shoving a tube down their esophagus. Force-feeding causes their livers to grow up to ten times their normal size, which leads to liver disease, otherwise known as hepatic lipidosis and subsequent pain and stress.
A similar suit was brought by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in New York, but it was dismissed.
Supreme Court Justice John Egan Jr. wrote that “voluminous exhibits … certainly show harm to the subject animals,” but, “the interests protected by the Agriculture and Markets law relating to adulterated food products do not include the interests of the animals raised for slaughter. … Nothing in the language of the state suggests that the Legislature intended … to protect the interests of the animals themselves.”
The ALDF is taking a different approach, reports the Times Union:
In the earlier suit, the plaintiffs claimed that they suffered legal injury not from consuming foie gras, but as taxpayers. In the new suit, the plaintiffs include the ALDF as well as Daniel Stahlie, a state resident who, the suit says, would prefer to eat foie gras that is not the result of force-feeding, “but it would be virtually impossible for him, as a consumer, to verify the safety and production method of every piece of food he eats.”
The suit goes on, “By approving force-fed foie gras for human consumption and allowing it to remain in the marketplace, State Respondents have injured Mr. Stahlie’s interests by causing him to consume diseased, dangerous and illegally manufactured products.”
The indisputable cruelty has led to bans in dozens of other countries in the European Union, along with Israel, which banned the practice after concluding that force-feeding violated its laws on animal torture. Hopefully, New York will be next on the list of places that can no longer justify this practice.