The month of October 2019 ended with good news for animal rights activists and advocates: The New York City Council passed a law that prohibits, as of 2022, the commercialization of foie gras, under fines of between 500 and 2,000 dollars (between 448 and 1,792 euros) that can be accompanied by up to one year in jail for those who insist on selling the precious delicacy from the goose’s liver.
The decision was made thanks to the battle of groups of animal liberation activists who repeatedly denounced the cruelty to which the geese are subjected through tubes attached to their throats, forced into excessive feeding to increase the fat in their livers (which reach weigh 10 times more than usual) and magnify the flavor of the foie.
This fattening process causes the animals to suffer intense liver pain, respiratory disorders, and pulmonary compression “with the sole objective of creating a luxury product,” according to New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, driving the measure.
“We want our city to be judged not only by how we treat our people but also our animals,” Corey Johnson, City Hall spokesman said on October 30. New York thus joins the ban already in force in California and Chicago.
The ban on marketing foie also applies to countries such as the United Kingdom, Israel, India, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Turkey, and the Czech Republic. The law, passed by 42 votes in favor and 6 against, has been very controversial considering that New York, an international gastronomic mecca, is one of the cities where more foie is consumed in the world: it is served in more than a thousand restaurants.
“This is idiocracy,” Dave Chang, a chef with two Michelin stars and owner of the Momofuku chain, lamented on his Twitter account. “Can we say that feeding people with high fructose corn syrup, food colors, excess salt, pesticides, and other additives causes” less suffering “than foie gras production?
I do not think we have asked all the necessary questions or considered enough opinions to start banning certain foods without any process that guides these decisions, ”says Daniel Rose, the celebrated chef of Le Coucou, considered one of the best French restaurants in New York. “I only accept this decision if I ban foie gras in New York. It generates a conversation about the state of food in the United States and the situation of animals in general, ”he emphasizes.
The news is a tragedy for the main Upstate farms, which cater to the city’s restaurants: Hudson Valley Foie Gras, La Belle Farm, and Rougié, which raise around 350,000 geese annually and have joined forces creating the Catskill Foie Gras Collective to inform consumers of the consequences of this law.
The group announces that it will appeal the sentence: it employs more than 400 people, many of them immigrants, who will lose their jobs, and ensures that the geese are raised in freedom (not crowded in boxes) and in clean places with good ventilation.
“The traditions that have existed for more than 4,500 years cannot be abolished simply because someone abuses their power,” says Nikola Smatrakalev, general manager of Rougié, who emphasizes that none of the 51 members of the New York City Council has accepted their invitation to visit the farms and see the real conditions of the animals.
“We are confident that the law will not be enforced,” says Marcus Henley, Hudson Valley manager Foie Gras, “reminds us of the authoritarian and fascist approach to animal welfare laws: Hitler also banned foie gras in 1933.”
There is unexpected animal suffering in these foods
Some products have a brutal side that consumers cannot see at first glance. We present six foods that hide a surprising amount of animal suffering.
Foie gras, French also called foie gras – is that maybe a liver that is stuffed? No, it is not. What may be considered a delicacy to some is a liver of geese that have been stuffed. During the painful procedure, the animals are pumped several hundred grams of corn porridge into the stomach every day using a metal tube. The result of force-feeding with an overdose of nutrients: a pathologically swollen liver.
The side effects of tamping include shortness of breath, neck injuries, broken bones, bleeding from the liver and heart failure. This particularly cruel practice is prohibited in many countries of Europe. However, the import of foie gras is not. More than 60 percent of the world’s production comes from France.
Real buffalo mozzarella from Italy is considered a delicacy, and cheese is also becoming increasingly popular globally. The cheese specialty is precious: Mozzarella di bufala campana costs about four times as much as conventional cow’s milk mozzarella, mainly since a buffalo cow only produces about a quarter of the milk yield of a normal milk cow. However, the price that the buffalo have to pay for it is much higher.
Because to give milk, a buffalo cow has to give birth to a calf every year. However, the male animals, which make up about half of the calves, are worthless for buffalo mozzarella production. You cannot give milk, and hardly anyone wants to buy the buffalo meat – the protein and iron-rich buffalo meat are very healthy.
The male buffalo calves are therefore brought to the slaughterhouse after about three weeks. The number of animals disposed of annually is six digits. However, many male calves die directly on the farm because they starve and die. The killing of the animals goes so far that entire buffalo cemeteries have been created in the Italian region of Campania. In this way, the breeders save the feed for the first days of life and the amount for slaughter in the slaughterhouse.
Not only gourmets pay a high price for the most expensive delicacy in the world (3000 euros per kilo). The female of the Beluga sturgeon, the largest freshwater fish on earth, is slashed alive at around 20 years of age for caviar production and exempted, writes the German Animal Welfare Association. The reason: otherwise, the roe would be inedible. Anesthesia in accordance with animal welfare, is very rare. Because anesthesia is problematic and time-consuming to monitor, especially with large fish.
Incidentally, the species itself is also threatened: According to experts, the Beluga sturgeon could have died out in the wild in just a few years due to intensive hunting, predatory fishing and the destruction of spawning grounds.
If you think “rabbit,” you may have a stable in mind, with straw or hay, carrots and plenty of exercises. There is no question of running out in commercial rabbit breeding. If at least 25 animals share a barn, the law provides for an area of 700 square centimeters. Draw this on 26.5 centimeters square. For a rabbit. Wire cages have also been allowed so far. After all, there has been a rabbit husbandry regulation since 2014 that is supposed to remedy the worst abuses (albeit with a long transition period). According to the German Animal Welfare Association, this is far from enough.
Do you know the evergreen “I want to be a chicken”? Nobody wants to trade with a chicken from today’s laying farm. And certainly not with one of the up to 50 million male chicks that hatch in German farms every year. Because they have a very short life. Because they do not lay eggs, they are shredded or gasified immediately after hatching. A ban on this practice has been announced many times, most recently by Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner.
There are also attempts to market the meat of the male siblings. This would delay the violent end of the animals at most by a few weeks. From an animal welfare point of view, this is not a really nice alternative. Most of the eggs produced are processed in processed products, such as pasta and biscuits – under conditions that a lot of people would reject with loose eggs.
Pictures of happy cows in the pasture hide the fact that many dairy cows are in the barn all year round or predominantly – tied up and without the possibility of turning. According to the Thünen Institute, this affects more than a third of all dairy farms and 15 percent of all dairy cows. According to the German Animal Welfare Association, almost a third of all cows – including “organic” cattle.
What many people are not aware of: cows only give milk if they have given birth to a calf – from which they are separated after a short time. See the buffalo mozzarella. According to a survey conducted by the animal welfare organization Peta, more than a third of 1,000 respondents believe that cows “basically” give milk.