Jewish Vegetarian - Vegan ArticlesBroad Jewish Coalition Opposes Foie Gras Production and Consumption
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Broad Jewish Coalition Opposes Foie Gras Production and Consumption

New York City, September 29, 1998

The wide-ranging coalition of Jewish medical, spiritual, and activist leaders - including rabbis from all branches of Judaism - that recently launched a campaign to put vegetarianism squarely on the Jewish agenda is pushing for a halt in the production and consumption of force-fed pate de foie gras because it involves a blatant and barbaric form of animal abuse and hence severely violates Jewish teachings on compassion to animals.

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To produce foie gras, a duck or goose is restrained and a metal pipe is shoved down the bird's throat and into the stomach. A massive quantity of corn is pressure-driven down the pipe, often causing a rupture of the bird's stomach or esophogus, leading to a very slow and agonizing death. Vomiting is often prevented by tying an elastic band around the bird's throat. This force feeding process takes place 3 to 5 times a day for a month, and transforms the 2 to 3 ounce liver into a 1 to 2 pound mass known as foie gras.

A September 24, 1998 New York Times article indicated that two Jewish men are owners of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Duck Products which now supplies about 80 percent of the foie gras produced in the United States and that "top restaurants across the nation are awash in fresh fois gras." When questioned about the cruelry involved in fois gras production, one of the owners responded that the treatment of the ducks is no worse than many of the other things done to animals raised and killed for food.

Judaism has very strong teachings on compassionate treatment of animals. Proverbs 12:10 states that "the righteous individual considers the life of his or her animal". Three times daily at synagogue services Psalm 145 is read and it contains the statement that "God's tender mercies are over all of His creatures." According to Jewish tradition, Moses and King David were deemed fit for leadership because of their compassionate treatment of sheep in their care. Because of these and many more Jewish teachings and the cruel treatmant of animals on "factory farms", Rabbi David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, has written that "the current treatment of animals in the livestock trade definitely renders the consumption of meat as halachically unacceptable."

Contrary to Jewish teachings on taking care of one's health, foie gras is very high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and hence contributes to several degenerative diseases. Also, contrary to Jewish teachings on sharing with hungry people, large amounts of grain are force-fed to the geese and ducks while millions of the world's people lack adequate food.

The coalition is urging rabbis and other Jewish leaders to make Jews aware that the concept of giving an animal a serious liver disease (fatty liver or hepatic lipidosis) simply because the grossly enlarged, malfunctioning organ is touted as a "delicacy" is completely contrary to Jewish teachings. It will also consider the possibility of pushing for legislation to ban the production of fois gras. At least 43 New York State licensed veterinarians support anti- foie gras legislation. The production of force-fed foie gras is already banned in Germany and Poland.

The coalition, under the leadership of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America, sent a special issue of the Jewish Vegetarian Newsletter to 3,650 North American congregational rabbis in early September. The Newsletter, which contains a letter to the rabbis seeking their support and involvement, inaugurated a major campaign to put issues related to diet on the Jewish agenda. Among the next steps are: radio and television appearances; articles and letters in Jewish publications;an Internet course on "Judaism and Vegetarianism"; booths at community events and fairs; an annual "Vegetarian Shabbat", scheduled for Parshat B'ha'alot'cha (when the Torah tells of the deaths of many Israelites after consuming quail flesh); and mailings sent to rabbis throughout the year connecting vegetarianism to the Jewish holidays.

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