Hudson Valley Foie Gras Prepares for Activists

The Hudson Valley Chronogram recently published an intriguing profile of Hudson Valley Foie Gras — billed as the world’s largest producer of foie gras. With California scheduled to ban foie gras production by 2012, putting Hudson Valley Foie Gras’ competitor Sonoma Foie Gras out of business, the focus of anti-foie gras efforts by animal rights activists will inevitably fall on this New York company.

According to the Chronogram, the business slaughters 2,000 ducks per week during normal operations and reaches upwards of 10,000 ducks per week during the Christmas holiday.

Hudson Valley was one of the foie gras farms featured in animal rights activist Sarahjane Blum’s 16-minute film, Delicacy of Despair, in which Blum trespassed at Hudson Valley and Sonoma Foie Gras. Chronogram reporter Susan Gibbs was surprisingly skeptical of the film going in, however, noting that,

The film is horrifying, and incredibly effective. But my many years in television news has taught me that selective editing can make a bad situation look a thousand times worse. To find out what was really going on at a foie gras farm, I would have to visit one.

If only more journalists were as skeptical of heavily edited animal rights video as Gibbs is. Fortunately, Hudson Valley proprietors Izzy Yanay and Michael Ginor agreed to allow Gibbs to tour their farm and the result is a profile that makes clear this is a slaughter operation, but one that doesn’t quite live up to Blum’s billing has a horror house.

For example, Gibbs comments on a common claim by activists — that the force fed ducks are often too fat to walk,

Blum had told me to be on the lookout for ducks so fat they were unable to walk. All of the ducks I saw walked. They were very fat and very dirty, a fact both Yanay and Blum said was due to a lack of sufficient water for preening. Several of the fattest ducks had green chalk marks on their necks designating them for the next day’s slaughter.

Gibbs also addresses the issue of ducks being accidentally killed in the forced feeding process,

Each of the farm’s 90 handlers is responsible for feeding 350 ducks three times a day. Spending one minute on each bird would make for a 17-and-a-half-hour workday, but most handlers work much faster. Activists claim that over-worked employees don’t have time to be careful with the ducks and sometimes kill them by overfeeding. Yanay denies the charged, pointing out that worker’s monthly bonuses are docked for each dead bird.

Blum’s short film featured shots of isolation cages at Hudson Valley. When Gibbs visited the farm, Yanay told her that, “That was an experiment. It didn’t work.” According to Yanay, the isolation cages have been discontinued. Blum, however, told Gibbs she doesn’t believe Yanay when he says the isolation cages are no longer being used.

Yanay defends foie gras as no more or less cruel than any other form of animal agriculture, and suggests that if activists do succeed in New York as they have in California, it won’t have much long-term impact on his business,

Okay. We are bad people. But what we do wrong is we kill them. We are a farm that produces a product. You see cute little babies coming out of the eggs. We grow them and feed them and then we have to kill them.

. . .

If production is banned in New York, we will take our business to China. We will kill the same number of ducks. No ducks have ever been spared by banning foie gras.


Fowl feast: Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Susan Gibbs, Chronogram (Hudson Valley), February 2005.

Israel Bans Force-Feeding of Geese

Following a 2003 Supreme Court decision that found foie gras violated Israel’s animal welfare law, the Israeli parliament this month passed legislation that will end the force-feeding of geese effective at the end of January 2005.

The Israeli Agriculture Minister had requested that the ban not go into effect until the end of March, but the Knesset Education Committee stuck fast to an end of January deadline to stop the practice.

Knesset Education Committee chair Meli Polishook-Bloch was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying of the ban,

The time has come to put an end to the drawn-out period of many years during which the geese have suffered.

Agricultural Ministry Director-General Yossy Ishay, on the other hand, was troubled by the influence that animal rights activists have had on this issue, telling the Jerusalem Post,

This is the first time the Knesset has decided that an entire sector of agriculture is illegal. If we don’t stop the animal rights groups, tomorrow you won’t be able to milk cows or keep chickens in coops.

Israel is among the world leaders in foie gras exports, with over 70 producers that export about $8 million worth of foie gras annually.


What’s bad for the goose . . . must stop, committee rules. Stuart Winer, The Jerusalem Post, January 4, 2005.

Israel to ban force-feeding of geese. Agence-France Presse, January 4, 2005.

Portland Restaurants Surrender to Foie Gras Opponents

The Portland Tribune reported earlier this month that two restaurants in Portland decided to remove foie gras from their menu following protests and harassment by animal rights activists.

Hurley’s restaurant and the Heathman Restaurant were both targeted by animal rights activists for serving foie gras, and both decided to remove it from their menu after holding out for several weeks of protests.

According to the Portland Tribune, activists protested at Hurley’s every Friday and Saturday night, and showed up at the lunch hour at Heathman. The activists were part of In Defense of Animals, according to the Tribune.

Many of the protests were perfectly legal, if a bit goofy. According to the Tribune,

Protester Diane Luck was wearing a duck costume. She kneeled on the sidewalk, clutching her throat, while another protester mimicked force-feeding by pouring grain into the mouth of her mask.

Other parts of the protests involved clearly illegal activities,

[Hurley’s owner Tom] Hurley also said he lost thousands of dollars from fake phone reservations placed by opponents of foie gras. In Defense of Animals denies any direct responsibility for the calls.


Foie gras protests successful. Anne Marie Distefano, The Portland Tribune, November 19, 2004.

France Delays Foie Gras Cage Ban Until 2010

According to UK newspaper The Guardian, France has angered animal rights activists by giving its 6,000 foie gras producers until at least 2010 to comply with a European Union ruling that requires the elimination of individual cages known as epinettes. The cages are criticized for their small, cramped size

The Guardian quoted a spokeswoman for the French Animal Rights League as saying,

It’s shameful. France has ratified all these conventions on cruelty to animals, and even put most of them into national law, yet it continues to condone this barbaric practice. It seems foie gras is sacred.

France, of course, is the world’s leading producer of foie gras, accounting for 70 percent of the world’s supply and 85 percent of the consumption of foie gras. According to The Guardian, the average French person eats foie gras about 10 times each year.


France defies EU to continue force-feeding birds for foie gras. Jon Henley, The Guardian, September 18, 2004.

Animal CARE Foundation Joins Groups Opposing California's Foie Gras Ban

Animal CARE Foundation president Sabina De Giacomo posted an e-mail to animal rights list today putting her group on record as opposing California’s proposed ban on foie gras. Passed by the legislature and awaiting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto or signature, the bill was originally promote by animal rights groups but changes made to the bill have such groups divided over whether or not to support it.

Citing amendments made to the original bill, De Giacomo wrote,

You will see the first amendment dragging the abuse out to January of 2012 then
in the second amendment, force feeding becomes exempt from any kind of cruelty
enforcement during that time period of 8 long miserable years and finally, in
the most recent amendment, all pending criminal and civil actions are supposed
to “disappear”. Basically, this leaves the birds with absolutely no protection
for 8 years and the foie gras producers with complete protection from any sort
of legal fees or fear of reprisal for “cruelty”.

The birds deserve better than this! In fact, these modifications practically
invite cruelty and help the CA dead fatty liver producers invest all those
potentially saved lawyers fees in new ways to torture ducks and whatever else
they get into in eight years.

ENOUGH ALREADY! Let Gov Schwarzenegger understand this is totally
unacceptable; he listened before under intense pressure!


ALERT: Please help Veto California SB 1520. Sabina De Giacomo, September 9, 2004.

More on Activist's Debate Over California Foie Gras Ban

As this site noted earlier this week, there’s an ongoing conflict between animal rights groups over whether or not they should support California’s proposed ban on force feeding of ducks and geese. One one side is Friends of Animals which is opposing the bill because it doesn’t go far enough, and on the other side are United Poultry Concerns and a number of other groups who argue that activists should take what they can get.

Farmed Animal Watch’s Mary Finelli recently posted e-mail correspondence between herself and Friends of Animals’ Daniel Hammer in which Finelli asked how opposing the bill could help ducks and geese. Here’s the response she got,

>From: "Daniel Hammer" <[email protected]>
>To: "Mary Finelli" <[email protected]>
>CC: "Priscilla Feral" <[email protected]>
>Subject: Re: FoA on SB 1520
>Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 16:05:30 -0400

>Dear Mary,

>Friends of Animals proposes that people work for the rights of animals and >promote a vegan lifestyle.

>Friends of Animals is making this happen by fighting the amended version of >SB 1520. The only thing SB 1520 does is protect the "right" of Sonoma Foie >Gras to forcefully fed ducks for the next eight years. "These animals," >those currently at Sonoma Foie Gras, will have been slaughtered when SB >1520 >takes effect--along with an additional 440,000 more. SB 1520 does nothing >for these animals--each one an individual whose rights are just as >important >as those birds eight years from now.

>Friends of Animals is also making this happen by encourage people to adopt >a >vegan lifestyle. There are a number of ways we are doing this, including >our >Vegan Starter and Restaurant Guides. Obviously, if people go vegan it will >help these animals, and many, many, more.

>Thank you for taking an interest in the work of FoA. More information on >what FoA is doing can be found at:

>Cheers, >Daniel Hammer

To which Finelli responded on AR-News,

Apparently FoA thinks there is more hope for these
birds that everyone will go vegan by 2012. Any sane person knows how utterly
improbable that is. Furthermore, supporting SB 1520 and promoting veganism
are not mutually exclusive. Most if not all of the many groups who are
supporting the bill are in fact doing both. FoA is pushing its philosophical
position to a berserk extent, one that is immensely detrimental to these
many birds as well as to the animal protection community. If in 8 years
ducks are still being brutally tortured for foie gras production in
California, FoA and the Humane Farming Association, which is also opposing
the bill, will be among those to blame. It’s inexcusable and infuriating. We
have met the enemy and it is these “Friends.” I urge all reasonable people
to do what they can to support this bill.

An animal rights group and its leader insane? Say it isn’t so.


Controversy over the California foie gras bill. Mary Finelli, E-mail Correspondence, September 1, 2004.