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Vive Foie Gras!

Ariane Daguin

Although foie gras production methods are safe and humane, animal rights extremists are pushing to make the delicacy illegal throughout the country.  This movement is not only anti-agriculture, but at its very soul, anti-American. Currently, the only state with a ban in place is California, where producing and selling foie gras will be prohibited as of July 1, 2012. Not only will this decimate the only foie gras farm in the state, it will impact countless restaurants. The ban infringes on the freedom of the nearly 40 million citizens of California.

Even if you don’t eat or sell foie gras, this ban will impact you. The issue is not about whether the production methods are safe and humane — scientific studies prove they are. The issue is the right of the public to choose what to eat. It is about the American value of freedom, which includes the freedom to eat and sell what is lawfully produced.

California today, the country tomorrow

Animal rights extremists seek a nationwide foie gras prohibition. If foie gras producers and consumers give up without a fight in California, tomorrow they will seek to ban even more animal products. Specialty duck is an easier target than massively consumed burgers, from the all-powerful factory farm industry. It is in the interest of freedom of choice that you should arm yourself with the facts and join us in the movement to address the anti-foie gras initiative. Don’t let the extremists reach into your favorite restaurant and even your own kitchen to take food off your plate. Read the impassioned foie gras essay by restaurateur Mark Pastore, owner of San Francisco’s Incanto restaurant, to see what foie gras freedom means to him.

The outcry from those who would ban foie gras completely is centered on the gavage method of feeding, which prohibitionists claim is inhumane. We know it is not. But don’t take our word for it. Check out the following facts, backed by scientific studies and the eyewitness accounts of veterinarians and journalists who have visited at least one of the handful of American foie gras farms.

Fact No. 1: Ducks have no gag reflex and their esophagi have a tough lining, so they can swallow huge fish or other prey without pain. As the National Audubon Society states: ” … birds have a remarkable ability to expand the mouth and stretch the esophagus to swallow large prey.” Gavage takes advantage of a natural trait of the bird — its ability to swallow large volumes of food without feeling pain. Veterinarians use this same feeding technique to save the lives of waterfowl, and parent birds use it to feed their young by plunging their long sharp beaks into their baby bird’s esophagus. Nature does not operate according to the animal rights agenda, and numerous videos attest to the capacity of ducks to swallow whole prey.

Fact No. 2.  In nature, web-footed birds gorge themselves and store calories as fat in their livers prior to migration. The effect is reversible, proving that a fattened liver (foie gras) is a natural propensity in ducks and geese. When waterfowl arrive at their migration destination, the fattened liver has returned to normal size, after being reabsorbed by the body for energy. Likewise, the liver of ducks fed for foie gras will return to normal if the feeding is halted.   


Studying the “use of a natural fattening phenomenon, foie gras has been recognized as a non-pathological and non-harmful product. It has been shown that physiological indicators of stress, nociceptive (pain) signs and behavioral responses were hardly affected by the gavage procedure.” Read the entire study by Drs. Daniel Guémené and Gerard Guy in “The Past, Present and Future of Force-Feeding and Foie Gras Production.” 

Fact No. 3. Independent vets and scientists conclude that gavage causes ducks no harm. The most detailed scientific study of the effect of feeding ducks on foie gras farms, published in 2004 in the World Poultry Science Journal, contradicts the claims of anti-foie gras activists. That study also concluded that foie gras is a “non-pathological and non-harmful product.” Further, the study found that biological indicators of stress in the ducks were “hardly affected” by the feeding procedure.

Fact No. 4. American foie gras is raised on small-scale farms using artisanal methods. There are only a handful of farms raising foie gras in the United States. Each uses the managed feeding method, where individual feeders establish relationships with the group of ducks they feed.

Anthony Bourdain filmed a foie gras farm for “No Reservations” and came to the conclusion that the ducks were not harmed.

Fact No. 5. The American Veterinary Medical Assn. has investigated foie gras production and has refused to take a position against it. In September 2005, it released a statement that said: “Because limited peer-reviewed scientific information dealing with the animal welfare concerns associated with foie gras production is available, and because the observations and practical experience of (AVMA) House of Delegates members indicate a minimum of adverse effects on the birds involved, the HOD did not support the resolution opposing force feeding used to produce foie gras.”

The fact that AVMA has refused to condemn foie gras production after conducting an investigation shows that science does not support the claims of the animal rights extremists.

The bottom line is that foie gras production is humane, and though practiced by a very few farms in the United States, it is accepted in the mainstream of animal agriculture. If one looks to scientific studies and not to extremists for information, it is evident that claims of animal cruelty are simply not supported by the facts.

To learn more visit the Artisan Farmers Alliance website and sign the petition to repeal the statewide ban on foie gras in California.

Please stand up for your rights and the rights of chefs and farmers, and against the tyranny of extremists.

This week’s Zester soapbox contributor, Ariane Daguin, is the owner of specialty foods company D’Artagnan, and a pioneer in the world of sustainable and organic foie gras production. Thanks to her father, the renowned Andre Daguin, she was expert at deboning and preparing ducks by age 10, and went on to become the first purveyor of game and foie gras in the U.S. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit in 2005 and the French Legion of Honor in 2006. 

Photo: Ariane Daguin, Courtesy of D’Artagnan

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Enter to win D’Artagnan foie gras on this week’s Zester Daily contest.