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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarianism in the News

June 1, 2004 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Los Angeles Times Columnist Quacks Up
In Attack on Animal Rights Activists

Editors' Note: In his Los Angeles Times column writer David Shaw attacked animal rights activists for pushing a bill in the California legislature that would ban the cruel force-feeding of ducks to produce foie gras. VIP editors are sharing our response to Shaw's vitriolic attack.

Dear David,

If we force-fed you "properly," would that be OK, provided that we didn't kill you in the process? So what if your liver expands eight to ten times its normal size? Should you or anyone else care if your health is impaired because you are compelled to eat the equivalent of 30 pounds of pasta in one day?

In your "Matters of Taste" column in the Los Angeles Times (Page F11, May 5, 2004) you bemoan the 4-3 vote of a committee in the California legislature banning the sale of any foie gras (French for fatty liver) produced by force-fed ducks. Fortunately the legislature is becoming more sensitive to this inhumane way of creating foie gras and is following the lead of Poland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Israel, and the United Kingdom who have banned it.

Your column refers to the legislation that would give Sonoma Foie Gras seven and one-half years to cease its insensitive practices or leave the business. Reacting to this measure, you write, "I sure hope everyone comes to his senses and the state abandons this ridiculous excursion into political correctness long before then."

David, we're sorry you don't get it. This is not a matter of "political correctness" but a shocking display of insensitive cruelty. Feeding any animal inordinate quantities of food will damage its liver and impact its health. Those diseased animal livers you and others are devouring are not healthy food. Your column essentially states that a low percentage of ducks became ill or died. The implication is that because of these statistics, the excessive feeding does little damage to the ducks.

You quote Guillermo Gonzalez, president of Sonoma Foie Gras, who says that only 2.38% of the ducks died during the force-feeding period last year. This is compared to the death rate of 3.8% of chickens raised for food in France during 2002. Because less than three out of every hundred died, this unnatural process is justified.

The Foie Gras people say that shoving a tube down the throat of duck causes no damage to the esophagus, but we wonder about the discomfort felt by the duck if anyone has examined the bird after it is killed to verify that the tube feeding did no damage.

We were surprised that a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist of your caliber would accept the reports of others who visited Sonoma Foie Gras instead of seeing the operation for himself. To make a judgment about force-feeding based on what you saw in France and applying that information to Sonoma Foie Gras is not a reporting process followed by an award-winning journalist.

Your mention of the legislative committee vote does not indicate what committee was polled and which house of the legislature was involved. That data including the number of the bill should have been included for people who wanted to follow up on the proposed legislation.

We understand your concern about the possibility of being denied foie gras as an essential part of your diet. You'll be missing quite a bit of cholesterol and saturated fat. We also understand your concern that this is the first step animal rights activists are taking to remove animal food from your dinner table.

"Misguided fanatics" like us would challenge you when you say, " There's a huge difference between pets and livestock. Pets are raised to be loved and cared for. Livestock is raised to be killed and eaten." Yet you would be the first to be appalled if we threw a dog or cat onto your barbecue. Why not show the same disdain for people who cut off the beaks of chickens, castrate steers, milk cows to death, or force-feed ducks?

Your closing statement clearly reveals your position. "I'm not ready -- never will be ready -- to give up steaks, lamb chops, roast chicken, veal chops or anything else just because a bunch of fanatics want to suck on celery sticks and make goo-goo eyes over farm animals."

We "fanatics" suggest that instead of reading reports of others, you see first hand how the animals you mentioned in your column are raised and slaughtered. In particular you may want to examine the journey taken by those veal chops before they reached your table.

The irony is that the animals on your dinner table will find their revenge by bringing heart disease, colon cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and more to people like you who are so enamored with animal flesh.

The title of your column is "They're quacking up the wrong tree." The headline should have been "A committed carnivore quacks up." Meanwhile, we "broccoli-nibbling, kale-chomping vegans" keep "barking and braying," and "sucking on our celery sticks," especially when we encounter excessive cruelty to animals encouraged and justified by award-winning journalists.

Health and Joy,

Zel and Reuben Allen
Vegetarians in Paradise

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