I believe that all forms of raising animals for human consumption are cruel. That’s why I adopted a vegan diet 27 years ago. But the production of foie gras is particularly cruel.
People who care about animals often disagree about how best to prevent animal cruelty or whether people should adopt vegan diets and lifestyles, but on the issue of foie gras, all humanitarian organizations – including People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – have called for it to be banned.
According to the ASPCA, during weeks of force-feeding ducks or geese to produce the greedy foie gras, “the bird’s liver becomes so large that, according to veterinarian documentation, the animals must experience pain and untold suffering The results of necropsies performed on dead birds that were force-fed show ruptured livers, throat damage, esophageal trauma, and food spilling out of the bird’s throat and nostrils.
Over the years, many around the world have unsuccessfully urged Governor Kathy Hochul, former Governors, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to help stop the production of foie gras in Sullivan County.
The production of foie gras is now banned in most European countries, Argentina, Australia, Israel and California. California also prohibits the sale of foie gras. India, which has no foie gras farms, prohibits its importation into the country.
New York is currently the only state where foie gras is produced, and the silence on this issue from Hochul, Schumer, Gillibrand and Attorney General Letitia James has been deafening. (In contrast, when current Vice President Kamala Harris was California’s attorney general, she successfully advocated to prevent the reversal of California’s foie gras ban).
In the Finger Lakes region, no senator or assemblyman from the region ever supported the foie gras ban bills, which all died in committee. At the federal level, Schumer and Gillibrand were unwilling to propose legislation that would ban the production of foie gras in the United States or prohibit the import or export of this dastardly product. They did not utter a word of compassion or sympathy for the tormented birds. Neither does the Governor or Attorney General of New York; neither did Republican officials when they held those positions.
Even without specific legislation regarding the production of foie gras, it can and should be banned in New York City under current animal cruelty laws. In some countries, including Israel, the production of foie gras has been deemed illegal under general animal protection laws similar to existing New York laws. However, none of the New York elected officials named above supported any effort that would interfere with the production or sales of foie gras.
In 1993, at a time before Israel’s ban on foie gras production, “The Jewish Ledger”, a Rochester publication, published my view that, although I was generally a strong supporter of Israel, “I am ashamed that Israel allows such indescribable cruelty to exist.” But the editors suppressed my opinion that the production of foie gras was comparable to “the type of cruelty and barbarity that characterized the Auschwitz concentration camp. One of the editors, who lost relatives to the ‘Holocaust, told me he was offended by my comparison of murdered people to “a bunch of ducks”.
In “Exodus From Pandemonium” (1968), Dr. Burton Blatt, psychologist and former assistant commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, described the deplorable conditions in American public institutions for the mentally retarded. Sensitive to man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, Blatt nevertheless revealed that he “never lost sleep or experienced sustained grief on hearing of or witnessing animal cruelty”.
In contrast, Heinrich Himmler, a Nazi leader who administered Hitler’s genocidal policy, once criticized an aide who enjoyed deer hunting. “How to find pleasure in shooting under cover at poor animals grazing on the edge of a wood. Well considered, it is murder,” said the mass murderer of human beings.
Why such a disconnect? How can such anomalies be explained? Many years ago, the film “Schindler’s List”, which depicts the horrors of the Holocaust, sparked many editorials warning about what happens when people are viewed as animals. But the message should have been that no living being should be subjected to atrocities.
One of the reasons I believe Abraham Lincoln was our greatest president is because he cared deeply about people and animals. Lincoln said: “I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. It is the way of a whole human being. By his actions throughout his life, Lincoln “walked the walk” as well as “spoke the talk”.
We should all heed the wise words of humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer: “The fundamental principle of morality is respect for life. Good is: To know pity, to help others to preserve their lives, and to spare them suffering. The evil is: ignoring compassion and not getting involved with all kinds of creatures, making them suffer and die.
In my own life, discovering the Gospel of the Twelve Saints—which I have described in previous Finger Lakes Times essays—inspired me to accept Jesus into my heart. The messages conveyed by Abraham Lincoln and Albert Schweitzer are similar to the message conveyed by Jesus – that animals too have souls and that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies to how we should treat animals as well as humans. Regardless of our religious beliefs, I believe the worship God values most is our kind and respectful treatment of people, animals and the environment that sustains us all.
Canandaigua resident Joel Freedman contributes essays and book reviews to the Finger Lakes Weather often.