Cruelty is cruelty: Foie gras production is factory farming

It was interesting to learn that Jonathan Ammons’ commentary “Foie Gras Ban a Waste of Energy,” a response to Joe Walsh’s column calling for a ban on this cruel delicacy, was one of the most-read Xpress online opinion pieces of 2012. I’d like to think it was popular because readers found it an amusing case of someone trying to defend the indefensible with obfuscation, fantasy and sheer nastiness. His column ended by telling compassionate citizens to “shut the hell up.”

Mr. Ammons suggested that animal activists work to ban factory farming, not foie gras production. Can’t he recognize that the savage atrocities inflicted upon ducks and geese in making foie gras are a particularly vile form of factory farming? How else would you characterize shoving long metal pipes down the throats of birds several times a day, while mechanized pumps shoot enormous amounts of food into their gullets? This is done to make their livers grow up to 10 times normal size. If the metal pipes don’t cause internal injuries, their enlarged, diseased livers pushing against other organs often do so, making standing and breathing difficult. Sound yummy? Think about that the next time you admire geese flying overhead or feed a duck at the lake.

Mr. Ammons bizarrely tells us that foie gras is an ethical product and labels himself an “animal rights supporter.” While this is all so very weird and incomprehensible, and would have been more appropriately printed on the “Asheville Disclaimer” page, I nonetheless invite him to join the battle to ban factory farming. I do find it telling that he never took the initiative to write a commentary on that subject before bringing it up in his defense of foie gras. For those who want to know more about the horrors of industrialized animal agriculture, I suggest they visit www.farmsanctuary.org and select “learn.” A short video about foie gras production can be found on YouTube (search “Roger Moore foie gras”).

Vegan activists oppose all animal farming, not just factory farming, because we believe it’s immoral to raise and kill sentient beings simply to satisfy human taste buds and gluttonous desires. As Tolstoy said, “A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.” Animal slavery is as wrong as human slavery, and meat is murder, whether the animal is raised indoors in a cramped cage or outside in a pasture.

Still, singling out the more egregious procedures inflicted upon an oppressed class is a common, effective tactic historically used by social justice movements. In the case of animal rights, it’s all about getting people to make the connection between their beliefs and their actions. When polled, a whopping majority of Americans say that animals should be protected from abuse. Yet most people eat animals who’ve been treated in incredibly cruel fashion.

Kudos to Mr. Walsh for shining a spotlight on this hidden cruelty; I wish more people who passionately care about animals would raise their voices. Doing so prompts open-minded folks to adjust their lifestyle choices to reflect their own ethical standards. We all draw the line somewhere. Most people in America don’t eat dogs and cats, some of us are vegans, others are vegetarians, some eschew veal, etc. The road to compassionate dining is a long one, but it must start somewhere. Why not with a ban on foie gras, which is inherently cruel and already illegal in more than a dozen countries?

I wish people who try to justify the torture and killing of animals would, just once, state that they simply don’t believe animals are deserving of consideration. I would appreciate such honesty. And I hope that those who do consider animals worthy of respect will consider the words of Albert Schweitzer: “Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”

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3 thoughts on “Cruelty is cruelty: Foie gras production is factory farming

  1. Mary Finelli

    Ironhead, it’s not a matter of caring more about other animals than about our fellow humans. It’s a matter of acknowledging that other species are also capable of suffering, and not wanting anyone to have cruelty needlessly inflicted on them. See: http://www.gourmetcruelty.com

  2. lmehaffey

    From someone who does not care for fois gras (or liver in any culinary form) and someone who believes in marketplace protest: if folks don’t like the methods of production – of any product – the most effective way, IMO, to react against it is to simply not purchase the product, not shop in places where the product is sold, and to convince large numbers of your friends to do the same. Business is an amoral acitvity — “right” and “wrong” rarely enter into an analysis of profit margins (there are commendable exceptions to this), but consumer preferences do matter … if a product is not profitable or is not selling well, it will be discontinued in favor of a product which will make money. So: give the producers a viable alternative, equally profitable, and then support them, by purchasing the replacement product, if they make the move. It’s all well and good to hold the high ground and to talk about how “bad” and “cruel” others are, but if you want change, and not just self-righteous warm fuzzies — act in ways that will effect change.

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