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A Foie Gras Reality Check

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Aaron Samuels' July 6 letter to the editor ("In Defense of Foie Gras") contains several factual errors that may be misleading to readers.

While Mr. Samuels has the right to express his personal philosophical approaches to issues concerning cruelty, trauma, and suffering, it's important to understand that many of his statements are based on conjecture, not scientifically supported data or empirical evidence.

The production of foie gras is an unnatural and inhumane practice which treats animals as commodities, rather than living things. The ducks and geese who are killed to produce the prohibitively expensive delicacy are first debeaked, and detoed. Feed is pressure-pumped down their throats through a metal pipe up to three times a day. These birds are not, as Mr. Samuels suggests, free to roam after they have "been fed." From the point the force-feeding begins, to the day they are sent to slaughter, the animals are kept in either cages or pens and the process leaves them gasping, vomiting, and struggling to stand.

Force-feeding is known to cause bruising, lacerations, sores, and even death. It also creates the grossly oversized "fatty liver" for which foie gras is named. But there is another name for this swollen liver---hepatic lipidosis. The liver becomes diseased as it expands to ten times its normal size.

Mr. Samuels also suggests that ducks in their natural state essentially force-feed themselves. While ducks in the wild do eat more before migrating, they do not eat to the point of immobility, vomiting, or disease, as foie gras ducks are forced to endure every day for the last several weeks of their lives.

Mr. Samuels is also incorrect in his statement that "scientists" have proven ducks are not bothered by force-feeding. In fact, a thorough review of the issue by an expert committee of scientists concluded that foe gras production is detrimental to the welfare of the birds. No credible scientist would suggest that depriving, torturing, and killing a living thing does not cause pain and distress.

Foie gras production is indefensible, and people worldwide are calling for it to be banned. In the interest of logic, science and truth it would seem valuable to recognize these realities rather than deny them. Foie gras is banned in over a dozen European countries, as well as in California and Chicago, because it is unconscionably cruel, and people are tired of being misinformed, misled, and disconnected from the reality behind the food they eat.

Laws reflect the values of our society. When cruelty is revealed to the public they react accordingly--by urging the creation of bans and legislation that will address and correct harmful abusive behavior. For more information on foie gras production, please visit www.farmsanctuary.org.

Gene Baur

President, Farm Sanctuary

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