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Oddly, The NY Times Describes Return of Foie Gras to California as Insignificant

January 14, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The NY Times regularly publishes substantive stories about the cruelty of industrialized animal agriculture, giving readers a disturbing peak over the high walls and into the windowless sheds that house the 10 billion farm animals slaughtered for food each year in the U.S. And, while the NY Times will never go far enough to satisfy those who espouse an entirely cruelty-free diet, its coverage of the horrors of factory farming is most welcome and appreciated by advocates.

Factory farm sheds where animals are held prisoner for their entire lives

Factory farms have no windows so that people cannot see where their meals are raised.

Today, the Times published a lengthy story by op-ed writer Mark Bittman arguing that the recent return of foie gras in California is insignificant because it affects only 600,000 animals nationwide, which is less than the number of chickens killed each hour in the U.S: “The lifting of the California ban against selling foie gras is pretty much a nonissue, except to point out that as a nation we have little perspective on animal welfare. To single out the tiniest fraction of meat production and label it ‘cruel’ is to miss the big picture, and the big picture is this: Almost all meat production in the United States is cruel.”

"No. Not again."

Ducks and geese are force fed through a metal pipe 3X daily in the weeks before slaughter.

While Mr. Bittman’s references to the cruelty of animal farming and his use of graphic words like “torturous” are praiseworthy, his suggestion that the return of foie gras is insignificant is perplexing. Why dismiss as irrelevant the reversal of much-needed protections that advocates worked tirelessly to achieve? Mr. Bittman might believe that “foie gras itself just isn’t that important,” but the ducks and geese who are throat-raped with a metal pipe three times a day would probably beg to differ.

Activists with PETA protest the return of foie gras in California (photo: PETA)

Activists with PETA protest the return of foie gras in California at Hot’s Kitchen in Los Angeles (photo: PETA)

Greedy, Heartless Owner of Hot's Kitchen, Sean Chaney, Sued to Legalize Foie Gras (photo:

Greedy, Heartless Owner of Hot’s Kitchen, Sean Chaney, Sued to Legalize Foie Gras in CA (photo:

Mr. Bittman: Is it too late to reframe the story by saying, “We must advocate to reinstate California’s foie gras ban AND work to help the billions of abused chickens, pigs, cows and fish who have been left behind.”

Ironically, the return of foie gras to California comes at a time when this “delicacy of despair” is coming under fire in the foie gras capital of the world — France.

Your Turn

Please sign the petition to re-instate the law banning foie gras in the state of California.

Comments via Facebook Comments

  1. Pénélope says:

    You say ‘almost all meat production is cruel’ almost all? How is taking any life unnecessarily not cruel?

  2. Pénélope says:

    If you care about animals then please consider going vegan and educate yourself about abolitionist veganism with Gary L. Francione The Abolitionist Approach and then educate others. All animals matter and all animals used for food or entertainment or science suffer unnecessarily at the hands of us humans we need to stop the cruelty now!

  3. go back to letting these animal roam on farmland let them get big without hormones and antibiotic, let them roam free,it doesn’t cost that much, just lots of farm land, any people who can purposely torture these animals has issues and i hope u guys rot in hell and get the same treatment daily for all eterity.

  4. You ask Mr. Bittman: Is it too late to reframe the story by saying, “We must advocate to reinstate California’s foie gras ban AND work to help the billions of abused chickens, pigs, cows and fish who have been left behind.”

    Exactly. It isn’t Either Or! I don’t care for Mark Bittman and Nicholas Kristof (NYT columnists). While they both occasionally write graphically about the harrowing cruelties perpetrated upon animals by the food industry, they always reassure readers that despite what they have learned, they will continue to consume animals anyway. And now Bittman writes that animal advocates should forget about hundreds of thousands of birds tortured and killed for their livers and focus on the billions of animals he supports being tortured and killed for his and other people’s palates. How can we help these billions when the Mark Bittmans of the world keep demanding their pounds of flesh?

  5. cheryl hopkins says:

    Why do this turn around? This regressive action labels California as just another misguided state which refuses to take a positive step for animals & people in the future! You should be very ashamed of yourselves! It’s all about money, greed, power. Your corporate farms bought you ought! This is such a barbaric, cruel, hideous practice! No ethics. No morals or principals. This just goes along w/ all of the other violence that’s happening in the world.!

  6. Terry says:

    If you think of each animal as an individual with feelings, as I’m sure we all do, then each and every bird used for fois gras has the same feelings as chickens and turkeys. So I think that they’re all important issues. I don’t agree with Mark Bittman as to foie gras being a non-issue, but at least he knows that factory farming is cruel.

    It’s very disappointing to hear that foie gras has returned to California. It’s hard to understand why the people responsible for the return of a commodity that is not consumed by most people, have so much power as to overturn a recent law.

  7. Patty Shenker says:

    I bet the ducks & geese don’t think this lift is insignificant- or any of us who actually care about these animals & their torture they endure. Foie gras is torture, plain & simple, & this return to this disgusting foul food only shows the lack of humanity. I am disgusted. Animal agriculture is the #1 cause of climate change as well as world hunger so if you care about anything besides your meals, stop eating all animal products. You’ll be healthier & helping to save our magnificent planet.

  8. Larry Trepel says:

    Can understand both sides of this argument. Bittman is basically saying that in the large scheme of animal suffering, this is neither a huge loss (or, previously, a gain). Your argument that it’s not insignificant to the 600,000 ducks who go through it is of course also true. I think Bittman’s point is that we should not waste too much time and resources fighting the sale of foie gras, if it diverts our attention from addressing larger issues. I somewhat agree with that. On the other hand, there are also strategic and symbolic reasons to address issues like foie gras. For one, production of it has relatively few supporters, so more chance it can be stopped. And since it’s a particularly devious form of torture that is performed for the wealthy consumer, there is value in targeting this level of consumer. Similar to fighting against fur coats, which have huge symbolic value, and which I have been protesting this year. I was involved in protesting foie gras sales at Fairway Markets in NYC for many years. I don’t regret the efforts we made, but feel we need to spread our already inadequate efforts to the best targets possible at any given time.

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