Hudson Valley Foie Gras uses orchestrated and staged tours to mislead the public about the welfare of ducks force-fed for foie gras.
Prior to 1997, Hudson Valley Foie Gras (HVFG) allowed tours into their actual facility where force-feeding production occurred. Following a telling visit and incriminating review of the facilities from Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM and Whole Foods Communications Director Margaret Wittenberg, HVFG began staged tours in an attempt to conceal inhumane practices and abuse. Dr. Cheever states “what [HVFG] learned in 1997 is that they CANNOT show the birds in the last 10-14 days of production--they are too clearly ill…they also learned that they CANNOT show how feeding is done regularly because it is too hurried, noisy, smelly, therefore it looks violent.”
HVFG continues to falsely claims that their tours reflect actual production methods. These claims have been discredited by several investigations into HVFG by animal protection groups and by Dr. Cheever who has proved that the “serenity” of staged tours is impossible due to production volume.
Investigations into HVFG have found that a single worker was expected to force-feed several hundred birds three times each day. So many ducks died from ruptured organs resulting from overfeeding that workers who killed fewer than 50 birds per month were given a bonus. Investigators documented workers dragging ducks by their necks along the wire floor and pin them between their legs before ramming the metal force-feeding tubes down their throats. These investigations reflect actual feeding production methods which are not shown during their staged tours.
At HVFG, a single worker is responsible for feeding more than 350 birds three times a day. Therefore, feeders are required to complete over 1050 feedings per day. HVFG staged tours show two female workers spending several minutes gently “slo-mo” feeding healthy bird in a “zen-like serenity” for guests. The reality is that workers inside HVFG have only seconds to feed each bird in order to hit their output numbers. Additionally, in the final two weeks, birds are deathly ill and much harder to feed due to their strong aversion to the tube. These sick birds are not shown on tours and during feedings, fight and struggle due to pain. The time pressure, coupled with birds struggling to get away, require workers to use forceful and cruel feeding methods that lead to sever injuries to the esophagus. Simply put, HVFG’s claims are not supported by the facts.
Margaret Wittenberg of Whole Foods wrote to Dr. Cheever following their tour of HVFG, calling it “tragic” and “upsetting.” She further wrote: “Neither will our company endorse it or any by-products related to the production of foie gras.” Additionally, in a review of myths presented by the foie gras industry to the City Council, several New York-based veterinarians stated: “the foie gras industry often uses staged footage in attempts to counter the overwhelming evidence and irrefutable video footage collected by animal protection groups showing the inhumane conditions on foie gras farms in the US.”
Not a single New York City job will be lost by passing a ban to prohibit the sale of foie gras from force-fed birds.
A tiny percentage, less than 1.5%, of restaurants serve foie gras in NYC. Of the restaurants who serve foie gras, this is one luxury item on their menu of dozens of items. There can be no creditable argument made, nor did a single business in NYC testify, that any jobs would be lost due to the bills passage. Alternatively, this bill would promote and protect NYC’s culinary reputation by removing a product that come from one of the cruelest productions practices on earth: force-feeding.
The only veterinarian in opposition to Intro 1378 is a paid consultant for HVFG and mislead the Committee during his testimony.
Dr. Lawrence Bartholf’s testimony in support of the treatment of ducks on HVFG farms is biased and should be deemed untrustworthy due to his being paid by HVFG as a consultant.
Additionally, Dr. Bartholf misled the Committee on several accounts:
Dr. Bartholf’s testimony that the livers of force-fed ducks are not diseased is plainly false. Every creditable professional who’s studied the impacts of force-feeding has agreed that clinical signs of hepatic lipidosis can include brain damage due to liver failure, difficulty breathing, lack of appetite, depression and abdominal enlargement or fluid accumulation in the abdomen.
Dr. Bartholf’s claiming it is the “normal ability in birds (for their liver to grow 10 times it’s normal size) because they migrate” is factually incorrect. In the case of foie gras, the liver is deliberately enlarged to up to 10 times its normal size via force-feeding multiple times daily for several weeks. In contrast, according to the AVMA’s summary of the peer-reviewed literature, duck livers showing seasonal changes enlarge only by a maximum of 1.5 times their normal size. Additionally, Dr. Bartholf failed to disclose that ducks raised for foie gras are a hybrid duck that doesn’t exist in the wild and therefore don’t migrate.
Dr. Bartholf claimed that “the esophagus is flexible and durable” and that a “feeding tube is a non-event for them.” The indisputable facts are as follows: The mouth of the inserted pipe or funnel does cause injuries, bruising and/or perforation of the esophagus. Food accidentally entering the adjacent windpipe can lead to aspiration-associated irritation, infection and consequent difficulty breathing. Asphyxia (suffocation) can occur if food accidentally enters the trachea instead of the adjacent esophagus. The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare of the European Commission found that the “oropharyngeal area is particularly sensitive and is physiologically adapted to perform a gag reflex in order to prevent fluids entering the trachea. Force feeding will have to overcome this reflex and hence the birds may initially find this distressing and injury may result.” These life-threatening consequences of constraint and force-feeding cannot be considered a “non-event,” as ignorantly described by Dr. Bartholf.
Not a single resident or business of New York City testified in opposition in the passing of Intro 1378.
This lack of opposition affirms previously conducted research, including a survey conducted by Mason-Dixon, showing that 81% of New Yorkers support this legislation. Only people who live outside of New York City and are financially tied to Hudson Valley Foie Gras or La Bella Farms testified in opposition. Alternatively, in support of Intro 1378, hundreds of New York City residents, dozens of not-for-profit organizations, 100 New York City based restaurants, and the Humane Society Veterinarian Medical Association--on behalf of 9000 members nationwide, and 300 members in New York—testified in full support. Two world-renowned veterinarians also testified at the hearing in support, both being independent, unpaid, and fully endorse Intro 1378.