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If It's Good For The Goose...
Is the foie gras process bad for the ducks and geese? In Wednesday's LA Times Letters To The Editor section, Norm Drexel, in Christchurch, New Zealand, responded to a story about foie gras-inspired vandalism around San Francisco. Drexel doubts that Cem Akin, a PETA researcher mentioned in the story, has actually witnessed the gavage of geese (the feeding process by which foie gras is produced). Drexel explains:

I don't pretend to be able to read a duck's mind, but they show no obvious signs of fear before or distress after feeding. When brought into the pen, they push to be first in line.

Hmmm...kind of like the flabby crowd ill-advisedly shoving to "Supersize It" at 7-11 -- but with webbed feet. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like the LA Times reporter who wrote the story ever left her desk to -- forgive me -- take a gander at any ducks or geese...or (sigh) bothered to phone even one objective expert. (I call this "interactive newswriting" -- where the story isn't altogether told, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks. What fun!)

In this case, it leaves the big question -- is gavage cruel or not? -- hanging over the story. I don't know the answer, but I did find a couple corroborations of what Drexel and here. So, should PETA change its name? PIPA?..."People For The Inaccurate Portrayal Of Animals?" It does have a cute sort of Mexical-Italian ring to it. But does it have the ring of truth? That is the question.

UPDATE: Look what happens when you put a little reporting into the mix! Here are a few words from Andrew Gumbel's story in the UK's Independent:

Mr. Jaubert said his adversaries were picking the wrong target. The Californian duck farm, operating under the name Sonoma Foie Gras, was free-range. Animals spent almost all their lives outside, he said, except for the final period of grain-feeding in air-conditioned buildings. "This is extremely good treatment, certainly compared to the way the big chicken producers behave with their animals," he said.

Mr. Manrique, who comes from Gascony, the heart of duck country in south-west France, has been an ambassador for foie gras for years. "Force-feeding is really the wrong word," he told a group of cooking students in San Francisco a couple of years ago. "The geese see the food we offer them and run after us. They say, 'Give me more'."

Such remarks may not sit well with the "meat is murder" crowd, but science is beginning to show that he may not be entirely wrong. An article in the journal British Poultry Science in 2001 found "no significant indication that force-feeding is perceived as an acute or chronic stress by male mule ducks".

Posted by aalkon at August 28, 2003 3:02 PM


-- forgive me -- take a gander at any ducks or geese...

No. I will not forgive that. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Regardless of the attitudes of force-fed geese used to make foie gras (fatted goose live pate but with a French name), I think gavage is cruel. Whether or not the geese line up for it is irrelevant. Domestic birds, inbred for generations, are STUPID! While it's a myth that turkeys left in the rain will drown, it is true that they've lost the instinct to protect their young from the rain. Many a domestic turkey chick have died from exposure because while a wild turkey mother will cover her young, the domestic will not.

So whether an inbred goose will have to be dragged, honking and screaming, to be force fed, or willingly line up to take the short bus to get there, proves nothing about anything.

Posted by: Patrick at August 28, 2003 2:23 AM

While I'm no vegetarian, I don't eat animal products if the animal has been mistreated. I have no problem eating eggs, for instance, if the hens are not kept in cages and free roaming. I won't eat the eggs of hens that are confined to cages, fed hormones with their beaks filed off. That's cruel.

I won't eat veal for the same reason.

Posted by: Patrick at August 28, 2003 2:29 AM

If we're truly concerned about animal rights, then I believe that it's unethical to try resolving this issue "regardless of the attitudes of force-fed geese used to make foie gras." Inbreeding has clearly made geese stupid, but not stupid enough to fill out a short, self-administered questionnaire. After all, people fill them out all the time. For this reason, I propose a survey of geese on their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about the practice of gavage. We could get funding from PETA!

Posted by: Lena Cuisina at August 28, 2003 7:27 AM