Bond: Liver let die?


Psst! Bond, James Bond, over here! Do what you like with the girls, shake or stir your vodka martinis however you wish, but keep your mitts off my geese!

This is patently absurd: based on a blatantly terrorist video produced by PETA and narrated by Bond2's Roger Moore, the Chicago city council votes to ban the goose liver delicacy known as foie gras on grounds that it's cruel.

Gaggle.JPG Herd of geese.JPG

Geese await feeding.JPG Farmer feeds goose.JPG Geese after feeding.JPG
Contended geese--foie gras on the hoof--along the Dordogne River in southwest France.

Aside from being woefully misguided, the council's action goes zooming down the slippery slope of government intervention in your dinner plate. (It's apparently no longer enough that the gummint wants to be in your bedroom and your medicine cabinet.) Feeding ducks and geese with softened grain (gavage in French) has been practiced since Egyptian times as winter approaches to encourage the natural accumulation of fat in the goose's liver: fuel for the winter. The animals welcome the attention. It's like feeding apples to a horse...or to a suckling pig.

What's next? A prohibition on actually eating said suckling pigs? Pulling the plug on trout fishing ponds? Keep it up, you'll get to a caveat on carrots and an embargo on endive. Now, if they want to do something useful, they could criminalize quail hunting ...


Is it better that we become more European or they become more American? A restaurant in Vicenza, Italy was recently fined for cruelty to lobsters when they displayed them live on ice for their customers. This from a country that also allowed Turin lawmakers to pass laws dictating that if you own a dog -- er, wait: a dog lives with you -- then you must take it out for a walk at least 3 times a day! And no goldfish bowls either! Too cruel and unusual a fate for goldfish! Never mind that goldfish have 5-second attention spans. Mmmm -- goose livers! In China, they eat dogs and cats (snakes too!) because it's all food...

I would think a city with the problems Chicago has would focus on education, crime and other social ills rather than impose their ill-informed and righteous opinions on their residents. Given that foie gras is a luxury food which is rarely eaten (compared to cruelly raised beef, chickens, veal, etc.), it seems a poor focus of all this indignation. I'm in support of government assuring safety of food, but does not fall into that category.

Ronald, would you please be more specific in answering the charges the animal rights advocates make regarding the force-feeding of geese and ducks? To say you don't want the gummint in your kitchen is a silly argument: do you want your meat to be uninspected, perhaps infected with mad cow disease? (Inspection of meat seems to be a very legitimate role for government -- a superbody acting for the good of the population --because individuals cannot perform such a function themselves). So the question really is, do the animals in question suffer in the course of their feeding? (A broader range of concerns would probably include the overall health and well-being of all farm animals raised for food; I'm not a PETA member, by the way -- I live on a ranch and raise a few animals -- goats -- which I use as dairy animals and some of which, the young males predominently, I slaughter for food).

In the interest of stimulating a discussion of the issue, I have pasted in some texts, explanatory and pro and con, from a few salient web sites as listed.
David Holden (yes, a relation -- Ronald's kid brother)

What Is Foie Gras?
Foie gras literally means "fatty liver" in French. To produce it, young ducks or geese have over four pounds of corn mush forced down their throats through a long metal pipe each day for two to three weeks until they can barely move and are on the verge of organ rupture and death. For a 150 pound human, this would be equivalent to 60 pounds of food per day.

The force-feeding process causes the ducks' livers to swell up to ten times their normal size, inducing a disease that veterinarians call "hepatic lipidosis." These fattened, diseased livers are sold as "foie gras."

The Animal Protection & Rescue League has exposed the two major "foie gras" producers in the U.S. and helped investigate several in France. In Defense of Animals and APRL sued under California's Unfair Business Practices law to force the passage of SB 1520, which Gov. Schwarzenegger signed in 2004 to ban both the production and sale of foie gras in California by 2012. The two groups are now spearheading a nationwide awareness initiative, wherein volunteers are displaying poster-size photos of the tortured birds from the animal cruelty investigations. Dozens of restaurants have already removed the cruel product from their menus as a result. (from

In the 1960s, new breeding techniques made commercial production of mulard ducks feasible. The mulard is a sterile hybrid produced by mating a Pekin hen and a Moscovy drake. Unlike geese, the mulard is relatively resistant to disease and stress. Raising ducks became significantly more cost effective than raising geese, and today, the vast majority of foie gras produced is from ducks.

Ducks and geese are omnivorous, and like many birds, have very elastic throats which expand and allow them to store whole food in the esophagus while awaiting digestion in the stomach. In the wild this dilation allows them to swallow large items, such as a whole fish, for a long digestive process. A wild duck may double its weight in the autumn, storing fat throughout much of its body and especially on the liver. This weight gain is entirely reversible both in the wild and with farmed fowl used in foie gras production.

The geese or ducks used in foie gras production are initially free range, feeding on grasses that toughen the esophagus. While still free roaming they are gradually introduced to a high starch diet that by itself leads to about half of the enlarged liver's size. The next feeding phase, which the French call finition d'engraissement, or "completing the fattening process", involves forced daily ingestion of feed for 12 to 15 days with ducks and for 15 to 18 days with geese. During this phase ducks are usually fed twice daily while geese are usually fed 3 times daily. The feed is administered using a funnel fitted with a large tube (20 to 30 cm long) which forces the feed into the animal's esophagus. If using an auger system to drive the feed, the procedure takes about 45 to 60 seconds. If using a pneumatic system, the process takes only about 2 to 3 seconds. Care is taken during the feeding process to ensure no damage to the esophagus occurs, which could cause injury or death in the animal.

Force feeding exploits a natural process through which geese and ducks store fat in their livers in preparation for winter migration. The feed, usually corn which is boiled with fat to facilitate ingestion, causes large amounts of fat to deposit in the liver producing the buttery consistency.

Geese used in foie gras production are generally Moullard geese. The ducks used are sterile hybrids: males of the species Cairina moschata are crossed with female domestic ducks (Anas platyrhynchos). These ducks are usually preferred to geese, as the carcass of a fattened duck is more valuable than that of a goose; other uses of ducks include popular dishes such as confit de canard (duck confit).


Goose being fed through a pipe during production of foie gras.Many contend the method of feeding the geese and ducks to be forced and cruel. They use the term gavage, a French term for stuffed feeding (and a medical term for feeding those who can't feed themselves). After political pressure from organizations lobbying for animal rights, certain jurisdictions have banned gavage.

Most foie gras producers do not consider their methods cruel, insisting that it is a natural process exploiting the animals' natural features. Producers argue that wild ducks and geese naturally ingest large amounts of whole food and gain weight before migration. Foie gras producers also contend that geese and ducks do not have a gag reflex, and therefore do not find force feeding uncomfortable. Michael Ginor, owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and author of Foie Gras... A Passion, claims his birds come to him and says this is important because "a stressed or hurt bird won't eat and digest well or produce a foie gras."

Late in 2003, a French coalition of animal rights groups published the Proclamation for the Abolition of the Gavage, claiming that the practice of forced feeding is already illegal based on existing animal protection laws in France and the European Union. However, these laws leave much for interpretation. The Council of the European Union issued Council Directive 98/58/EC on 20 July 1998 concerning the protection of farm animals. It stipulates that animal "owners or keepers take all reasonable steps to ensure the welfare of animals under their care and to ensure that those animals are not caused any unnecessary pain, suffering or injury."

The Report of the EU Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare on Welfare Aspects of the Production of Foie Gras in Ducks and Geese, Adopted 16 December 1998 is an 89-page review of studies from several producing countries. It notes that animal death rates increase by a factor of ten to twenty during the two-week forced feeding period. Also, while the consequences of force feeding in birds are reversible, the "level of steatosis should be considered pathological."

The EU report notes that continued force feeding leads to early death of the animal. It also recognizes that producers do not put their birds livers into a pathological state. The timing of liver fattening is carefully controlled so the animal is slaughtered before it becomes a health hazard. An animal that stops the forced feeding process returns to its normal weight. Producers, and the EU report, also answer the criticism of increased mortality by noting that the overall mortality rate of ducks and geese in foie gras production is much less than that of farm raised chickens and turkeys.

Some of the physiological claims by producers are contradicted by the EU report. In response to the gag reflex claim, the report states, "The oropharyngeal area is particularly sensitive and is physiologically adapted to perform a gag reflex in order to prevent fluids entering the trachea. Force feeding will have to overcome this reflex and hence the birds may initially find this distressing and injury may result." Some critics argue that the birds would be better served sedated before being fed. Others suggest surgically removing the liver from birds that have died of natural causes, and soaking them in a mixture of gelatine, alcohol, and buttermilk.

Industry groups including CIFOG, and researchers at INRA affirm that forced feeding is not a cruel procedure and even that animals appreciate this treatment. The EU committee carried out several tests designed to detect pain or distress by looking at blood hormones and all of them were inconclusive or without any measurable difference to similarly raised animals. The committee did not observe any signs that animals appreciated being force fed, and observed that ducks attempted to move away when their feeder entered the room. However, veterinarians who serve at foie gras farms have observed behavior which indicates the birds appreciate force feeding.

Some EU foie gras producers seek protection under a "cultural exception" clause similar to the protection of bullfighting in the south.

Foie gras is illegal in several locations, and legislation is pending in others. In August, 2003, the Supreme Court of Israel declared foie gras production to be animal cruelty, and made production illegal beginning in March, 2005. On September 29, 2004, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law that will ban the production or sale of foie gras from force fed birds in the state by 2012. The law would allow foie gras produced by methods that are not considered animal cruelty. Similar legislation is pending in New York. California and New York are currently the only US states with foie gras industries. On April 26, 2006, the city council of Chicago voted to make Chicago the first city in the United States to ban foie gras [5].

Force feeding is prohibited in:

Austria (six of nine provinces)
The Czech Republic
Israel (2005)
Poland (1999 — was the world's fifth largest producer)
The Netherlands
The United Kingdom
United States: California's ban comes into effect in 2012
United States: Chicago, IL

from wikipedia:

"We have children getting killed by gang leaders and dope dealers. We have real issues here...And we're dealing with foie gras?"

Richard Daily, Chicago Mayor, after the City Council approved a ban on the sale of foie gras on the grounds that production of fatty duck and goose livers requies unhumane treatment of the birds.

Source: Time magazine, May 8, 2006, "Verbatim"

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on April 28, 2006 2:54 PM.

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