AR-News: New Foie Gras Undercover Investigation and Rescue

Adam Weissman, League of Humane Voters adam at
Thu Sep 18 01:07:19 EDT 2003 has documented and exposed the horrors of the American
foie gras industry and rescued fifteen ducks in the process. Details are now
available at

The story broke last night in a piece of investigative journalism by Dan
and the ABC7 I-Team.

The Foie Gras Controversy
An Exclusive Look Inside The Industry

It's one of the most expensive gourmet foods in the world, and foie gras is
more popular than ever. The most exclusive restaurants here serve it. But few
people have seen how foie gras is made, and that's the motive behind this
recent spree of vandalism.

A word of warning: some of the images are disturbing, but we feel it's
important to see the truth for yourself.

Animal rights activists broke into a new specialty foods shop and restaurant
that will feature foie gras, poured cement down the drains, and flooded the
historic adobe building in Napa last month.

The crime scene photos obtained by the I-Team show the message behind the
attack: "End Animal Torture," "Foie Gras Equals Death."

Laurent Manrique: "I will continue to use foie gras, that is something I
believe in."

The activists targeted the shop's owner, Laurent Manrique, the famous chef
from Aqua Restaurant in San Francisco. His business partner is Guillermo
Gonzalez, who owns one of just two ranches in the country that produce foie
gras by
force-feeding ducks. :

Laurent Manrique: "Foie gras is not cruel, because really the animals is
being fed, they are not suffering."

After vandals attacked his business and home, Manrique told the local media
that the ducks he uses for foie gras are "not mistreated" and "not
that they are "free range." He didn't know at the time that activists had
investigating the foie gras industry for a year and documenting the process
inside Sonoma Foie Gras.

Sarahjane Blum, activist: "There's no question that if
people knew what foie gras really was they would not be eating it."

The ranch near Stockton sends 1,500 ducks a week to slaughter. Workers
force-feed the ducks so they develop a disease called hepatic lipidosis. The
expands from the normal size up to 12 times larger.

Laurie Superstein-Cook, Avian Vet: "A friend of mine refers to pate as
hepatic lipidosis on toast is what people eat, it's a diseased liver."

This is how Laurent Manrique described the feeding process to us, before he
knew we had the undercover pictures.

Laurent Manrique: "If you go to the farm, there is a machine with a small
tube this size, you know, and the farmer takes the duck and just pull the
right at the entrance of the beak."

Then, we showed him the reality of force-feeding.

Dan Noyes: "This is Sonoma Foie Gras."

At least three times a day, a worker grabs each duck, shoves a long, thick
metal tube down its throat and an air pump shoots up to a pound of corn into

Laurent Manrique: "So, for me it's not surprising, this is a natural

Dan Noyes: "The impression you gave me just a moment before though was a
little better than that, I mean, you said they basically put it into the
mouth not
very far. That thing's going well down into their throat, all the way to
their crop."

Laurent Manrique: "Uh-huh. You should put it on TV. That's the normal

The tube sometimes perforates the side of the duck's throat, causing scarring
and other damage. And, the large amount of food has an impact.

Laurie Superstein-Cook, Avian Vet: "The liver is there to clean out toxins
from the blood stream. If the liver can't work properly, you've got all these
toxins flowing through the blood, making them feel bad in various ways, so it
can harm various organs as well as the brain."

The activists found barrels of ducks that died before their livers could be
harvested, others still barely alive. They also watched ducks too weak or
overweight to defend themselves against the rats at Sonoma Foie Gras. Rats
eating these two ducks alive and you can see evidence of similar battles on
several other ducks.

Laurent Manrique: "We should do something about that."

Dan: "What concerns does that raise for you as a chef who uses foie gras from
a place like this?"

Laurent Manrique: "Because apparently the place is not as clean, and it's
supposed to be clean."

The activists have documented similar problems at the country's other foie
gras farm: Hudson Valley of New York. There, ducks are kept in isolation
They can't move during the weeks of force-feeding and the machinery they use
at Hudson takes longer, so the ducks have more time to struggle against the
long metal pole.

Sarahjane Blum, activist: "Foie gras producers know that
if they said that these birds were sick and injured and in constant pain and
essentially just tortured for this product, no one would be buying it."

Concern for the treatment of ducks has spurred at least a dozen countries
around the world to pass laws restricting force-feeding. Just last month, the
Israeli Supreme Court banned the production of foie gras, even though Israel
one of the world's largest consumers of the duck liver. The controversy is
having an impact in the Bay Area.

The owner of another exclusive restaurant here in San Francisco, Jardinière,
has just pulled foie gras off the menu. She says she is haunted by the images
of those ducks.

Laurent Manrique tells the I-Team he has no plans to stop selling foie gras,
that he is not the criminal the activists are, who vandalized his business
home, and threatened his family.

Laurent Manrique: "Some people are not true to themselves and they have to
cover their face. You know, I don't cover my face, I'm proud of what I'm
and I have a strong opinion on that."

Sarahjane Blum and her crew may have broken some laws. They ignored the "no
trespassing" signs at the ranch, and took 15 ducks from Sonoma Foie Gras and
Hudson Valley, including the ones you saw being eaten by rats. They nursed
ducks back to health, taught them to eat on their own, and even gave them
workouts on a water treadmill.

Sarahjane Blum, activist: "They are living a great and
happy life now."

When Dan Noyes met her in New York, Blum said didn't know who's responsible
for the recent foie gras attacks. But still she faces some questions from the

Dan Noyes: "Aren't you concerned about being arrested?"

Sarahjane Blum, activist: "I haven't done anything wrong.
The people who are torturing animals day in and day out and selling their
corpses on the market, they're the criminals."

The I-Team met with the owner of Sonoma Foie Gras, Guillermo Gonzalez, and he
agreed to give an interview and tour of the ranch. The next day, he backed
out. During our meeting, Gonzalez told us the pictures you saw are typical of
any farming operation. But, he admits he does have work to do to make the
process more humane.

The purpose of the League of Humane Voters (LOHV) is  to mobilize
public concern for animals through the democratic political process.
We campaign for the election of candidates for public office who will
work to enact animal rights legislation.  Recognizing that animal
exploitation is a political issue and not just a moral one, we intend
to make animal rights a mainstream political issue by building
support among citizens, activists, political parties, candidates and
elected representatives.

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