A bill to ban the sale and distribution of foie gras—the fatty liver product produced by force-feeding ducks or geese until their livers expand as much as 10 times their normal size—has passed the Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs Committee and is now under consideration by the Judiciary Committee in Hawaii!
If all goes well, Hawaii will join California and at least 15 countries, including the U.K., Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Israel, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic, on the ever-growing list of places that want no part of foie gras. Target, Costco, and several other businesses have also stopped carrying foie gras for ethical reasons.
Unfortunately though, plenty of other places still serve the disgusting dish, even though overwhelming scientific evidence proves that the force-feedings cause the birds’ pain and distress. Force-fed birds suffer from impaired liver function, skeletal disorders, and other diseases, including hepatic encephalopathy (brain damage caused by liver malfunction).
Dr. Ian Duncan, who holds an emeritus chair in animal welfare at the University of Guelph in Canada, says, “Force feeding quickly results in birds that are obese and in a pathological state, called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease. There is no doubt, that in this pathological state, the birds will feel very ill.”
Dr. Duncan also believes that the regular insertion of a feeding tube damages the birds’ esophagi, which exacerbates the painfulness of each force feeding. The mortality rate of birds raised for foie gras is as much as 20 times higher than that of birds raised normally, and carcasses show wing fractures and severe tissue damage to the throat muscles.
Science backs up common sense: Ramming pipes down birds’ throats and pumping so much grain and fat into their stomachs that their livers malfunction is cruel and unconscionable. (While the livers of force-fed birds often expand up to 10 times their natural size, the livers of migrating birds never more than double in size, even when they are “fattening up” for a long journey.)
In light of these facts, the prospect of a foie gras ban in Hawaii is terribly exciting. But the need for it is just plain sad. It’s unsettling that some restaurants and stores must be legally prohibited from selling such an egregiously cruel dish–and consumers from buying it. Have we no shame?
No one really wants laws governing what they can and cannot eat, but society’s inability to make compassionate, just, and sensible choices has forced politicians to legislate our actions. Reading about the bill in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin article above, one comment particularly stood out to me:
“I am appalled that it is even necessary to file a complaint about considering it legal to torture fowl by force-feeding it for the purpose of destroying its liver to make a more exotic appetizing food,” said Sylvan Schwab of the East Maui Animal Refuge in testimony for the bill. “Is it not sad enough that you must kill? Must you torture as well to satisfy someone’s sick idea of delicacy?”
Sadly, caring people must fight to legislate things that shouldn’t need to be legislated. There are still many chefs, restaurants, and gourmands who feel that their profits—or their palates—are all that matter.
If you live in Hawaii, please let your legislatures know that you would be proud to live in a state where foie gras is unacceptable. It will help bring us one step closer to a foie-gras-free world, and save countless animals from unnecessary suffering.