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.

Alaska to Expand Wolf Cull

Despite protests from the Friends of Animals over its wolf hunt last year that killed 144 wolves, Alaska plans to expand the aerial hunting of wolves this year.

Alaska’s initial aerial hunting program in 2003 resulted in 127 wolves killed in the Nelchina Basin and 17 in the McGrath area. The wolves were culled in order to allow moose populations in those areas to increase for hunting purposes. According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, there are anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 wolves in Alaska, and about 1,500 are killed annually by hunters and trappers.

This year, in addition to the Nelchina Basin and McGrath areas, the state will offer permits for the aerial shooting of wolves west of Cook Inlet and near Aniak as well. The state would like hunters to kill about 150 wolves in both of the new areas.

Asked about the possibility of the Friends of Animals’ tourist boycott intensifying, a spokeswoman for Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski said, “He’s [Murkowski] concerned about what Alaskans think” not what animal rights activists elsewhere in the nation think.

Permits for the aerial hunt will be issued on October 15th and the hunt itself should get underway sometime in early December.


State widens wolf control program. Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 29, 2004.

UPC and Other Groups Urge Signing of SB 1520

Yesterday, I noted that Friends of Animals sent out a press release opposing California SB 1520 which would outlaw force feeding of birds for the production of foie gras in 2012. Shortly after the Friends of Animals press release, United Poultry Concerns issued a press release urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign the bill and slamming groups opposed to the bill.

The UPC press release said it was joined in support of the bill by the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, VivaUSA, Farm Sanctuary, In Defense of Animals,, and the Animal Protection and Rescue League.

According to UPC,

The bill if enacted will abolish a farmed animal abuse. The fact that
there will be a phase-in period is not a reason to oppose this bill. We have
applauded the banning of battery-hen cages in the European Union and in
Austria, and the banning of sow gestation crates in Florida, but all of this
important legislation for farmed animals includes phase-in periods. No one
who supports farmed animal protective legislation wants to wait for the law
to take effect, but that is now how the legislative process works. Yes, the
foie gras industry is going to use the time to try to overturn the law and
do other nefarious things, but this means that our public education work is
cut out for us. Given the facts of foie gras production and the videotaping
of the procedure that we have (Delicacy of Despair), it seems unlikely that
the public is going to be persuaded to abandon the ducks and oppose a ban on
foie gras production and sale in California.

. . .

Those groups who actively oppose SB 1520 could lobby at state and federal
levels to try to enact legislation that would ban foie gras production/sale
immediately, but they are not doing so. Instead, they are obstructing the
passage of this bill while offering no real alternative, just bashing the
bill and the groups that have worked so hard to get the bill introduced and
to retain as much of the original intent of the bill as possible.

United Poultry Concerns urges activists to support SB 1520 and to refuse to
reject this opportunity in pursuit of a purist fantasy. The objections being
raised against SB 1520 are unrealistic given the realities of the
legislative process and the enormous obstacles that farmed animals have
traditionally faced legislatively. Sabotaging this bill is going to hurt the
ducks, not help them.

The foie gras ban is one of about 1,000 bills that Schwarzenegger must either sign or veto by then end of September. Schwarzenegger has previously called the bill “silly” and pointed to it as an example of why California needs a part-time legislature.


Why UPC Supports SB 1520 and Urges Everyone Else to Support the Bill. Press Release, United Poultry Concerns, August 31, 2004.

Friends of Animals Urges California Governor to Veto Foie Gras Bill

A bill that would eventually ban the production of foie gras in California recently cleared both houses of the California legislature, but one of its supporters — Friends of Animals — is urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto the bill.

Animal rights activists originally pushed for the bill, but it was amended by the legislature in ways that did not make them happy.

First, the ban on force feeding of birds in California wouldn’t go into effect until July 1, 2012 at the earliest. Ostensibly this is to give foie gras producers times to change their business practices, but this is also a nice way to simply punt the issue to a future legislature which could simply void the current bill.

Second, in the mean time the bill provides protections to foie gras producers from civil or criminal action. The bill provides that,

No civil or criminal cause of action shall arise on or after January 1, 2005, nor shall a pending action commenced prior to January 1, 2005, be pursued under any provision of law against a person or entity for engaging, prior to July 1, 2012, in any act prohibited by this chapter.

So instead of an immediate ban on foie gras, what the activists got for their trouble was a ban almost 8 years in the future with explicit criminal and civil immunity for foie gras producers in the meantime.

In a letter urging animal rights activists to call Gov. Schwarzenegger’s office and urge him to veto the bill, Friends of Animals Daniel Hammer wrote,

In his testimony on SB 1520, Assemblyperson Joe Nation stated: “I want to emphasize this. Sonoma Foie Gras, the only producer of foie gras in California, supports SB 1520.”

Sonoma Foie Gras retained a lobbyist to work on getting SB 1520 passed. In his testimony, Sonoma Foie Gras owner Guillermo Gonzalez stated: “I want to express my appreciation for allowing us to continue in operation! We are very appreciative.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s office needs to hear from you. Tell him SB 1520 only benefits the state’s foie gras producer, while ensuring the continued torture of at least 440,000 ducks. Please press Gov. Schwarzenegger to veto SB 1520, “the foie gras bill.”

The full text of the amended bill can be read here.


Update on SB 1520: Urgent Action Alert. Press Release, Friends of Animals, August 31, 2004.

Lee Hall Blasts PETA Over Iraqi Fur Stunt

Friends of Animals’ legal director Lee Hall was back to his favorite sport this month — bashing People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals.

In an essay titled “People for the Exploitative Treatment of Arabs?” Hall rips into PETA and Ingrid Newkirk over a recent stunt in which PETA was to give a donated mink coat to an Iraqi. In January PETA issued a press releasing saying,

Every year, PETA gives away hundreds of donated fur coats to the needy and homeless across North America. KennedyÂ’s coats will be part of a special shipment that PETA is sending to war-torn Iraq, where many residents of hard-hit towns are facing a cold winter without electricity.

Hall first writes about his displeasure with previous PETA stunts wherein the group gives donated furs to homeless people. He mentions a 2002 campaign in which PETA gave fur coats to homeless people in Great Britain,

PETA pushed the
stunt despite strenuous public objection from British anti-fur campaigners
as well.  Activists who had spent many weeks in delicate negotiations to
establish a fur-free policy in a Liverpool hospice charity watched their
work unravel in the midst of the PETA campaign.

Another group stated:

It gives the
impression that homeless people are a class that can be used as pawns in an
American groupÂ’s cause, and that they have no right to have a moral choice
on the fur issue. The marking of the coats with paint to identify them as
give-aways has the more sinister effect of identifying the wearers as

PETA also
supervises the distribution of furs to homeless people in urban areas of the
U.S., through a scheme bizarrely named the Fur Soup
Kitchen. When the idea first hatched, numerous concerned activists,
including long-time anti-fur campaigner Priscilla Feral of Connecticut-based
Friends of Animals, asked PETA to drop the tactic.  But PETA president
Ingrid Newkirk waved the critics off, telling them to “go to work, real
work!” Newkirk further wrote:

When the homeless
are wearing fur, you know fur has hit rock bottom. It is no longer
fashionable, chic or desirable. People with money and style can choose, and
they donÂ’t choose fur because nothing beats synthetics for warmth as borne
out by Polar and Everest expeditions. Perhaps the only people left who can
justify wearing  fur are those so down-and-out that they cannot choose.

So now we see that
“the down-and-out” would have been better off with synthetics, but Newkirk
did not try to obtain such garments.  Instead, Newkirk used these people
to make a point:  to associate fur with the “rock bottom.” Rather than
offer respectful assistance to the poor, Newkirk subverted their dignity to
PETAÂ’s single-minded end.

Hall then turns to the furs-for-Iraq stunt writing,

And now Newkirk
would have us take up a collection of mink coats for the Iraqis.

With Iraqis reduced to wearing PETAÂ’s fur, in
the world according to Newkirk, it is clear that these people have hit rock
bottom. Never mind that through years of sanctions and finally by invading
their land, we were the ones who put them there. Never mind that PETA
apparently supported that invasion by regularly trotting out a staffer
identified as a U.S. Marine throughout the siege of Iraq. Never mind that
Norfolk-based PETA gave the troops calendars with pictures of
scantily-clad women along with packets of “Treats for the Troops.” Never
mind that PETA distributed posters of PlayboyÂ’s Kimberly Hefner in an
unbuttoned Uncle Sam outfit through “Stars and Stripes,” the U.S. military
newspaper given to the people ordered to invade Iraq.

. . .

>The news report on
the furs-to-Iraqis scheme said little about motives, other than to describe
the Iraqis as “needy.” But it is all equally revolting, whether itÂ’s about
PETA using the occupation to display goodly-hearted sentiments about the
Iraqi people — after sending some of the enemies of those same people over
with boxes of sweets — or whether itÂ’s just about using Iraqis as their
latest image of the “rock bottom.” One of PETAÂ’s slogans is “IÂ’d rather be
caught dead than wear fur.” However we look at it, that doesnÂ’t say much for
PETAÂ’s view of the people of Iraq.

Too bad for the animal rights movement (and good for the rest of us) that Hall’s views about PETA’s stunts seem to be in the minority.


People for the Exploitative Treatment of Arabs? Lee Hall, Dissident Voice, May 6, 2004.

Revulsion at AnimalsÂ’ Being Killed for Their Skins Spurs Gift to Be Used in Compassion Campaign. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, January 9, 2004.

Friends of Animals' Alaska Boycott Appears to Be Going Nowhere

In late December, Friends of Animals launched a tourist boycott of Alaska after that state decided to begin aerial killing of a small number of wolves. According to an Associated Press report, however, so far the boycott hasn’t had much of an effect on tourism or Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski’s commitment to the wolf hunting program.

The aerial hunt, which ended April 30, was intended to kill about 180 wolves in areas where they were perceived as killing too many moose. As of April 26, only 140 wolves had actually been killed. According to the Associated Press, there are anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 wolves in Alaska.

What effect the boycott has had depends on who is doing the talking. The Alaska Travel Industry Association told the Associated Press that while it has received about 100 calls and 200 e-mails from people saying they will not visit Alaska due to the boycott, it’s difficult to know how many of those people actually cancelled reservations.

The AP interviewed representatives at two businesses — a lodge and a small eco-tour company — who say that they have not noticed any change in reservations.

On the other hand, the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association, which represents 275 smaller businesses, told the AP that the boycott could effect its members and responds to inquires with a letter reading that it,

. . . share[s] your concern for the wolves. . . . Unfortunately, our state leaders have ignored our wishes and gone ahead with their personal agenda.

As an example, the general manager of small travel company Alaska Discovery tells the AP that its reservations are the worst in its 33 years. So the boycott may end up largely hurting businesses which oppose the wolf hunting policy in the first place while doing little to actually change the policy. Still, another small travel company tells the AP that it’s business is up 20 percent from last year.

Indeed, Priscilla Feral seems to acknowledge that the boycott is unlikely to sway Murkowski, telling the Associated Press that the group may have to continue the protests and boycott through the end of Murkowski’s term of office,

I just find the current regime is really destructive beyond what anybody remembers in prior administrations. All of this, more than shaming Alaska, shames the country as a whole and that is why we aren’t going to go away.

Which means they could be doing their howl-ins for quite a while, since Murkowski’s term runs through the end of November 2006, assuming he isn’t re-elected.

Assuming the boycott has only minimal effect, the obvious question is why, considering how successful Friends of Animals’ 1993 boycott was. Obviously personalities are part of the reason, with Murkowski apparently willing to ignore any boycott whereas then Gov. Wally Hickel quickly caved into Feral’s demands. The other reason, I suspect, is the intervening 11 years of actions by animal rights activists — let’s call it the PETA factor.

In 1993, the animal rights movement was still relatively new and novel. Today, thanks to groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the movement is old hat and it’s objections to just about any animal-related activity much more widely known. I suspect that a large segment of people who in 1993 might have heard about the Alaska boycott and been sympathetic are today saying to themselves, “Oh, there go those animal rights activists again.”

PETA and other groups seem to operate on the principle that any publicity is good publicity, which might be true when promoting a movie or CD, but is not true when trying to bring about radical social changes.


Animal rights boycott of Alaska not working. Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, April 26, 2004.