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In World’s Foie Gras Capital, the “Delicacy of Despair” is Coming Under Fire

December 31, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

Eighty percent of the world’s foie gras is produced in France, where it is protected by law as part of the country’s “cultural and gastronomical heritage.” But even in France, where it is regarded by many as a food group, the delicacy of despair is coming under fire.

Photo: L214

In the past several weeks, three incidents have compromised foie gras’ once esteemed place in French society.

1. A poll taken in France shows increased opposition to foie gras.  In December, 47% of those surveyed said they would support a ban –  a 3% increase from 2013. In addition, 77% said they would prefer foie gras that was not made through gavage, French for force feeding. (Foie gras is produced by force feeding ducks and geese through metal pipes until their livers become diseased, swelling up to ten times their normal size. The pipes are inserted 12″ down their gullets three times daily in the weeks leading up to slaughter.)

"No. Not again."

Gavage (force feeding)

2. Legendary actress Brigrette Bardot filed a formal appeal with the EU Commission to ban the production of foie gras. In an open letter to the  Health Commissioner, she argued that, because many EU countries have already outlawed force feeding, the EU Commission should “harmonize laws against this cruel and barbaric practice” by banning it in all member countries. After all, she says, force feeding “goes against European values of promoting animal welfare.”

Photo: Corbis

Photo: Corbis

3. British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal dropped his foie gras supplier in France after The Daily Mirror released footage of dead and injured ducks that a veterinarian described as a “representation of hell.” A spokesman for his restaurant, which is ironically named Fat Duck, said, “We were shocked at the video and the conditions in which the ducks were apparently being kept.” Fat Duck is currently closed for renovations, but the menu on its website does not contain foie gras.

Chef Heston Blumenthal at Fat Duck in the U.K. (photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Chef Heston Blumenthal at Fat Duck in the U.K. (photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

The movement to ban foie gras is still young, but significant progress has made. In 2004, California banned the production and sale of foie gras. The law went into effect in 2012. In October, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the California law, sending a strong message to other states that they can, as California Attorney General stated, pass laws that “prohibit the sale of products based on concerns about animal welfare.”

In the U.K., foie gras production is illegal, and activist groups are advocating to end the sale. Since August, Hertfordshire Animal Rights has stopped the sale of foie gras at least six restaurants.

Hertfordshire Animal Rights

Hertfordshire Animal Rights

Israel, India and Argentina have imposed restrictions on the production, sale and/or importation of foie gras.

After France, the world’s largest producers of foie gras are Hungary (8%) and Bulgaria (6%). The U.S. produces just over 1% of the world’s supply.

As the public is increasingly exposed to the cruelty of foie gras production, “tradition” will become a much weaker justification. After all, if Barcelona can ban bullfighting, then France can – and eventually will – ban force feeding.

Your Turn

Please share this story to educate others about the cruelty of foie gras, and please sign the petition to ban the production and importation of foie gras in the EU.

If you have never seen force-feeding, please watch this video created by Last Chance for Animals.

Filed under: Food, Victories
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Consuming Songbirds for Supper, Illegally

October 15, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

Is there nothing we won’t eat?

songbird in pot

In its Dining section this week, The NY Times reported that “one essential dish” has been missing from the menu of  renowned restaurants in Southwestern France — ortolans (songbirds). “Gourmands consume the head, bones and body in a single, steaming mouthful, while covering their faces with a white napkin to conceal the act.”

Eating songbirds (Photo: Richard Cottenier/MAXPPP)

Eating songbirds (Photo: Richard Cottenier/MAXPPP)

Hunting ortolans has been illegal since 1979, when the European Union declared them a protected species. In an effort to “revive the tradition” of eating them, French chefs are lobbying to legalize their consumption, but activists are pushing back, arguing that the chefs’ publicity stunt will further endanger the birds and subject them to egregious abuse.

And abusive it is. Poachers lure ortolans into ground traps during their migration from Europe to Africa. Once captured, the birds are held in a dark box for three weeks; force fed until fattened to three times their normal size; and drowned alive in liqueur.

Allain Bourgrain Dubourg, president of the Birds Protection League in France, argues that “Good cuisine cannot be used as an excuse for the conditions these animals are kept in.”  Chefs, of course, insist the birds are treated humanely.

Frustrated by the illegal poaching, activists put themselves in harm’s way to liberate the birds from traps —  as shown in the trailer to Emptying The Skies, a (brilliant) documentary on the “the secret war to save the songbirds.” In 2013, the film received the Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Award at the Hamptons Film Festival in New York.

Your Turn

To learn more about and/or support the heroic efforts by activists liberating the birds and holding poachers accountable, please visit the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS).

Please sign the petition to stop ortolan hunting.


Filed under: Food, WIldlife
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Every Nation is the Worst Offender

October 12, 2014 by Leave a Comment


In moments of frustration and anger, many of us demonize an entire country when we learn about the atrocities they commit against animals, but those feelings are misguided. Only a small percentage of people in any country participate in the abuse, and most are probably unaware. In addition, whatever country we happen to call home is probably committing abuses that are every bit as bad, so why point a finger?  Every nation is culpable:

The French insert tubes down the throats of ducks and force feed them:

Force-feeding of a goose to make foie gras

The Spanish set some bulls on fire and chase others through city streets:

photo: Jose Jordan/AFP/Getty Images

photo: Jose Jordan/AFP/Getty Images

The Chinese skin animals alive for fur:

skinned alive

Americans lasso young animals, wrestle them to the ground and twist their necks at rodeos:

Rodeo cruelty

Canadians club baby seals:

Canadian seal hunt

Africans tear the tusks out of elephants’ faces:

Photo: Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone

Photo: Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone

Australians hack flesh out of sheep to keep insects out of their wool:


Mexicans stab bulls to death to cheering crowds:


The Danish drive pilot whales into the shore and butcher them:

Denmark whaling

Photo: Sea Shepherd

The Japanese shoot harpoons with explosives into protected whales and serve animals at restaurants who are still alive:



This list goes on. Instead of vilifying entire countries, which does nothing to help their animals, we should target our anger – and energy – toward those who commit the atrocities and the authorities who have the power to stop them.

Filed under: Opinion
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Raw footage: Activists Occupy Bullfight Arena

August 29, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

On August 25th, we reported that police and bullfight fans attacked protesters in Southwestern France after they entered the arena in an attempt to stop or delay the bullfight. Here is raw footage of the brave activists occupying the arena and then being dragged, attacked and pepper-sprayed by the police.

One day, this footage will be in a Museum of Animal rights. In the meantime, we must continue to make history by participating in or supporting non-violent direct action, as shown in this video.

Filed under: Entertainment
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Police and Bullfight Fans Attack Protesters with Weapons, Sending Four to Hospital

August 27, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

Bullfight fans who cheer when terrified animals are stabbed to death seized on the chance to commit their own acts of brutality. When 150 members of the anti-bullfight group CRAC Europe jumped into the arena in Southern France, both fans and police attacked them with batons, tear gas and a metal bar, sending four to the hospital. In his description of the harrowing experience, CRAC president Jean-Pierre Garriques said, “Several aficionados attempted to throw activists over the side of the ring.” By jumping into the arena and disbursing, the activists had hoped to stop or delay the bullfight. What they did not anticipate was the police and fans violently beating them to the cheers of onlookers. Raw footage:

Your Turn

Violence begets violence, so bullfight fans attacking protesters should come as no surprise. Still, the degree of the beatings is unexpected in a developed country like France. Ironically, bullfighting is punishable by two years in prison for animal cruelty in the 90% of the country where it’s illegal.” Learn more about bullfight cruelty and discourage your friends who visit France, Mexico and Spain from attending one.

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