Viewpoint: Ban on force-feeding of birds sought

Published: 01/09/2011
Publication: Maui News

January 9, 2011 - By BARBARA STEINBERG

When the Hawaii legislative session opens on Jan. 19, Rep. Angus McKelvey and Sens. Mike Gabbard, Chun Oakland and Clayton Hee will co-introduce a humane bill to prevent unspeakable cruelty to ducks and geese.

More than 15 countries and the state of California have outlawed the cruel force-feeding of ducks and geese to enlarge their livers to more than 10 times their normal size in the production of foie gras, a fatty liver appetizer. Only a few countries in the world still produce this diseased liver.

"Production of foie gras needs to be prohibited immediately," said veterinarian Demian Dressler, of Kihei. "Force-feeding of the animal species is simply inhumane and deserves no part in an intelligent society such as ours. Secondly, the hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver) that afflicts the animals as consequence of the practice is an actual disease syndrome and a recognized medical problem. Finally, the product is simply a luxury food item and does not serve to feed a large portion or the population at a reasonable cost. I support legislation to prohibit the production and sale this product for these reasons."

Please e-mail or call Barbara Steinberg at 879-0025 to receive alerts about the status of the proposed humane legislation. More information on the worldwide campaign against force-feeding is available at

Like the California law that will take effect in 2012, the proposed Hawaii bill will prohibit the sale of products that are the result of force-feeding a bird to enlarge its liver beyond normal size. No matter where producers are jamming large metal pipes down the throats of birds and pumping them full of massive quantities of food, they will not be able to sell their torturous product in the Hawaii or California.

Foie gras is the only product that is made in this manner. No other form of animal agriculture involves using machines to pump animals full of feed against their will and beyond their natural desire to eat. When Chicago banned the sale of foie gras in 2006, some restaurants started making versions of this appetizer that did not use liver from force-fed birds, and restaurant critics said it tasted the same (

Many top chefs, such as Wolfgang Puck and Charlie Trotter, have renounced this product of extreme animal cruelty. There are many humane alternatives for restaurants to serve, and we as a society are above torturing animals for a table treat.

Sir Roger Moore narrated a video for the Animal Protection & Rescue League on animal cruelty investigations of the three U.S. foie gras farms and several in France. It is viewable On this site, you can also see the horrendous record these farms have of abusing undocumented migrant laborers and polluting the environment.

There is nothing unusual or unprecedented about banning a product that is made in an inhumane manner or that negatively impacts the environment or people's health. For instance, the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits the sale of whale or dolphin meat anywhere in the U.S. Hawaii also has its own laws to protect our unique environment and humane standards.

Most people rightly assume that if an item is on a menu at a restaurant, it is safe to consume and not produced in such an extremely cruel manner as pumping animals full of so much feed they are sick and dying. The purpose of our state government is to provide a forum to examine issues affecting the health and welfare of society, and to pass laws protecting these goals.

In order to operate, restaurants must be certified as complying with local health codes and regulations, and they cannot sell products that have been deemed through the democratic process as being destructive to the common good, whether for health, environmental, or humane reasons. No law can stop someone from engaging in animal cruelty if they are intent on doing so, but the least we can do is stop condoning this cruelty as a society.

* Barbara Steinberg is the spokeswoman for a Maui group advocating for a state law to ban the force-feeding of ducks and geese.

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