“Not to Excess, Neither by Extortion”: Kiss Foie Gras Good-Bye

While randomly reading a legal blog, I read a rather disturbing description of the process used to create the fat goose livers that are turned into foie gras, the goose liver pate that delights many people for reasons I don’t fully grasp. I used to think it was just barely tolerable, but not anymore. I don’t think I can stomach it anymore after reading this from the Rebecca Tushnet’s blog, in “Vegan alternative has standing against foie gras producer“:

ALDF alleged that Hudson Valley Foie Gras violated the Lanham Act … by marketing their foie gras as “the humane choice” without producing it humanely. At 3 months old, Hudson Valley’s ducklings are allegedly moved into special feeding barns, where they’re restrained by the neck 2-3 times per day to be force-fed. Corn mash is pumped directly into their stomachs, with amounts increasing slightly each day. After about a month of this, at a time just before force-feeding typically becomes fatal, the ducks are slaughtered, though some die from the force-feeding before that.

The alleged cruel and inhumane aspects were that (1) injuries and illness commonly result from the force-feeding, “including ruptured esophagi, bone fractures, inhalation of food into the lungs, and bacterial infection,” (2) the force-feeding enlarges ducks’ livers, resulting in hepatic lipidosis, which causes liver failure as well as seizures and nervous system impairment, and (3) the extremely swollen liver may lead to difficulty breathing, severe pain from the liver’s capsule stretching, and broken legs as a result of the excess body weight. Foie gras ducks are not given veterinary care and thus may suffer up to four weeks until they die or are slaughtered.

In 2004, California banned force-feeding birds for the purpose of producing an enlarged liver, and also banned the sale in California of any products resulting force-feeding, but the law only took effect in 2012. The delay was designed to allow California foie gras producers to find a humane way to produce the desired fatty liver, but no one was able to do so. Thus, there are no longer any foie gras producers in California. However, out-of-state foie gras producers may market and ship their products to California. Hudson Valley is the largest foie gras producer in the United States and markets its foie gras as “the humane choice.”

So someone is allegedly marketing a foie gras products as a “humane” product without eliminating the inhumane force feeding of immobilized birds. Very sad. Our era of mass produced animal products leads to many ugly, abusive situations with animals that increasingly point to the wisdom of eating meat sparingly.

Doctrine and Covenants 59 has a passage with good insight into the abundance that this planet offers and our stewardship in using the resources the Lord has created for our use:

16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;

17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;

18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

It’s not enough to recognize that the Lord created many things that we may use for food, clothing, and enjoyment. With receiving those blessings comes a requirement to use these things responsibly, with judgment, and not with excess or extortion. What is extortion in this context? The word is related to torsion and torque, with a root meaning of twisting, as in twisting the arm of person to force them to do something they don’t want to do. Hugh Nibley in “Work We Must, But the Lunch is Free” applied the word to the sound business practice of extracting every last bit of value from the resources one has access to:

In passing through any field or vineyard in Israel, anyone was free to take what he needed if he was hungry (as the Lord and the apostles did; Mark 2:23); if the owner denied him that, he was breaking the law; if the person took more than he needed for lunch, then he was breaking the law–it was still manna (Deuteronomy 23:24–25). When gathering harvest, said the law, never go back to make sure that you have taken all the olives, grapes, or grain of your farm to the barn or to the press. That may be sound business practice, but the Lord forbids it. Some of it must always be left for those who might need it. From the wine and olive presses we get the word “extortion,” meaning to squeeze out the last drop, another way to make a margin of profit–putting the squeeze on, wringing out the last drop. The Latter–day Saints, like the ancient Israelites, are to accept God’s gifts gratefully and not “by extortion” (D&C 59:20).

Force-feediing of an animal to the point of death to create an unnaturally fatty liver sounds like a good example of extortion being applied to the bounties of Planet Earth.

Mormanity readers don’t strike me as the elite folks who eat a lot of foie gras. But I bet many of us have plenty of chicken. There’s another disturbing story of how birds are raised and harvested by mass producers in depressing, even brutal circumstances. Do any of you have experiences in successfully finding sources of poultry where the birds were treated relatively humanely? I know, this is a difficult thing for consumers, but your insights will be appreciated.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

5 thoughts on ““Not to Excess, Neither by Extortion”: Kiss Foie Gras Good-Bye

  1. Thank you for bringing this to people's attention. We are vegetarian. We belong to groups that campaign for the humane treatment of all animals, all over the world. We live trap pests (mice, spiders, snakes etc.) at our house and release them away from houses. I am not against people eating meat, that is their choice. I would like to see people make better choices in supporting those companies who treat their animals with kindness. Like range fed animals. These animals feel, hurt, think, etc. and are sacrificed for consumption.
    I remember reading that one or two of our past Prophets were vegetarian, and they spoke of the importance of following the word of wisdom pertaining to hunting only for food, don't kill more than what you can eat, etc.
    It bothers me that the church owns a sport hunting compound. It violates the word of wisdom. Joseph Smith said to not kill animals just to kill, for fun or sport. He said all animals need to be treated with respect as they are all God's creatures. We will be judged on how we treat all God's creatures, not just how we treat humans. It is unfortunate that the SLC church leadership does not follow the W of W nor the teachings and counsel of Joseph Smith. Thank you.

  2. I agree with you, but haven't you seen a lot of the same cruelty on a more frequent basis in China? I have never been to the mainland, but I have been to Hong Kong. I've witnessed people eating live fish on a skewer, drunken shrimp, etc. Foie gras is a product of horrific practices, but one that is symptomatic of a much larger problem.

  3. Is it human to kill and eat any kind of meat if we really don't need to? As I understand D&C 89 beasts and fowl and meat should be eaten sparingly, in cold or in winter or in excess hUnger. We haven't really had a famine here in the U.S. in a super long time. And we've always had many other sources of plant based protein that are even much cheaper and healthier sources of protein. So is it humane to kill when it is not necessary?

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