SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the national non-profit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), urging that foie gras—the “fatty liver” of a force-fed duck or goose–bear a consumer warning label stating “NOTICE: Foie gras products are derived from diseased birds.”
Because the USDA is responsible for ensuring that poultry products are wholesome and for approving only products from healthy animals, stamping foie gras products with the USDA seal without disclosing that those products are derived from diseased birds misleads consumers, contravening the Poultry Products Inspection Act.
Why should the USDA be making it clear to consumers that foie gras is not “wholesome,” as stated on their inspection seal?
Currently, on U.S. foie gras farms in New York and California, ducks are force fed three pounds of mash a day through a pipe shoved down their throats—the equivalent of force-feeding 45 pounds of food to an adult human—inducing liver disease known as hepatic lipidosis that often cripples and poisons the birds.
The cruel and unhealthy force-feeding of birds for foie gras production has been banned in over a dozen countries, including theUnited Kingdom,Germany,Italy, andIsrael, and aCaliforniastate ban, passed in 2004, will go into effect on July 1, 2012. Even retailers like Whole Foods and Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants refuse to sell foie gras.
In addition to being diseased, foie gras products may induce disease. A 2007 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that protein fibers from foie gras enhanced the onset of Secondary Amyloidosis, a disease fatal to humans.
In the past, ALDF and other animal protection groups have called on the USDA to ban foie gras outright as unfit for human consumption.
“The federal government is supposed to make sure that animals in the food supply are healthy and the products made from them are wholesome, and the USDA stamp sends that message to consumers,” says ALDF Director of Litigation Carter Dillard.
“However, foie gras comes from birds who, in addition to being horribly abused, are diseased and extremely ill. It is disgusting and illegal to make animals diseased so they will taste better. Today’s petition says, at the very least, alert consumers to what they are eating. Just like someone buying a pack of cigarettes, consumers purchasing foie gras have a right to know what they are really buying, and to be warned about the risks involved.”
Copies of ALDF’s petition to the USDA are available upon request. ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit www.aldf.org.