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October 2003
Vegetarian Advocate: Israel Bans the Production of Foie Gras. Is America Next?

By Jack Rosenberger



Ahhh, the taste of victory! For a decade, animal advocates in Israel fought to ban the production of pâté de foie gras in their country. On August 11th, they triumphed. That day, the Israeli Supreme Court outlawed the force-feeding of geese and ducks to produce foie gras. Israeli law prohibits unnecessary cruelty to animals, including farmed animals. The Supreme Court ruled that the current method of producing foie gras is cruel and that the Health Ministry regulations allowing foie gras production are illegal.

“The process, in which a metal tube is inserted into the goose’s throat, through which food is compressed into his stomach, is violent and harmful,” wrote one judge in the court’s ruling. “The process causes a degenerative disease of the goose liver, and its enlargement up to 10 times its original size.”

The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling is particularly significant as Israel is the world’s third largest producer of foie gras. It now joins Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Poland as one of the enlightened countries that have outlawed the production of foie gras within its borders.
As one Israeli activist quipped after the Supreme Court decision, “I’m sure the geese thank us from the depths of their liver.”

The Supreme Court ruling does not take effect until March 2005. Foie gras production is a $25 million industry in Israel. About 10 percent of the country’s workforce is unemployed, and the court delayed the implementation of its ruling until early 2005 to ease the burden on the 600 farmers and workers who are slated to lose their foie gras-related jobs.

The Supreme Court’s decision bans the current method of force-feeding, but includes language allowing the production of foie gras using other methods that will “significantly reduce suffering.” Some Israeli activists are concerned the foie gras industry will try to circumvent the court’s ruling by devising an alternative method of less harmful feeding. No such method, however, currently exists, and as Andre Menache, a Jerusalem-based veterinary surgeon and a leader in the anti-foie gras campaign, has noted, “Any method that achieves the aim of swelling the liver is going to entail cruelty.”

The Israeli campaign to ban foie gras production involved numerous animal protection groups operating under an umbrella organization, NOAH, which worked through the courts and the Israeli Parliament, and influenced public opinion against foie gras through numerous ad campaigns, some of which involved the use of graphic photos.

Foie Gras in America
Could America be the next country to outlaw foie gras production? I’d like to think so. The Israeli ban succeeded primarily for two reasons: 1) a coalition of animal protection groups worked together and waged a sustained, hard-hitting national campaign; and 2) Israeli animal cruelty laws include farmed animals.

The foie gras industry in America is particularly vulnerable as it involves only two companies: Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, New York, and Sonoma Foie Gras in Sonoma, California. Given that foie gras is the culinary equivalent of a fur coat, when educated, most carnivores—even the ones who like to eat Chicken McNuggets at least once a week—find it difficult to condone the animal cruelty inherent to foie gras.

One of the societal advantages of a national campaign to ban the production of foie gras is it will heighten the awareness of people, particularly young people, about what happens to all farmed animals before they are turned into bacon, burgers, and Chicken McNuggets. It’s a win-win situation.

Sonoma Foie Gras recently made the front page of the New York Times’ Dining Out section as California animal advocates have targeted the company; Sonoma Saveurs, a Sonoma restaurant that serves foie gras and has connections with Sonoma Foie Gras; and the homes of two Sonoma Saveurs co-owners. Activists also liberated several ducks from the Sonoma Foie Gras facility and distributed a videotape about alleged animal abuse at Sonoma Foie Gras to San Francisco-area television stations.

The controversy is taking a predictable toll on the Sonoma Foie Gras owners, Guillermo and Junny Gonzalez, a married couple. In an interview with the New York Times, Guillermo Gonzalez said, “Who knows why God is putting us through this.” Perhaps Mr. Gonzalez is befuddled or in denial. God herself doesn’t seem to be playing a role in this little drama. There is no doubt, however, about the involvement of Gonzalez himself, and if he wants his present troubles to disappear, he should embark on a mid-life career move.

As for the unappetizing happenings at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, see my previous “Vegetarian Advocate” column of May 2000 on the subject.

Contact: Earlier this year, New York State Assemblyman John J. McEneny introduced an amendment, A01821, that would outlaw the force-feeding of poultry for foie gras in the Empire State. Given that one of the largest foie gras producers is in New York, it’s a natural place to start. Please contact him with your support at (518) 455-4178 or mcenenj@, and urge your local assemblyperson to support this amendment as well (for contact information, visit

As of yet, there is no national coalition to ban foie gras in the U.S. Please call or write American vegetarian and animal advocacy groups and urge them to join forces to ban foie gras production. If the Israelis can do it in the current firestorm of violence, we can do it here.

Also, speak out against the cruelty involved in making foie gras, particularly to the people who are responsible for its production, distribution, and sale. Michael Ginor, co-owner and founder, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, 80 Brooks Rd., Ferndale, NY 12734; (845) 292-2500; and Guillermo and Junny Gonzalez, Sonoma Foie Gras, Box 2007, Sonoma, CA 95476; (800) 427-4559 or (707) 938-1229; and

A New, Favorite Bumper Sticker

“If we aren’t supposed to eat humans, then why are they made of meat?”


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