R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore, a True Friend to Animals

Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore speaking about farm animal protection and factory farming .

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mary Tyler Moore, an inspiring, passionate, and dedicated advocate who worked throughout her life to champion the rights of all animals.

Mary Tyler Moore speaks before reporters about factory farming. (Photo by Derek Goodwin)

Mary Tyler Moore speaks before reporters about factory farming. (Photo by Derek Goodwin)

She was a true — and beloved — friend of Farm Sanctuary who used her prominence as a platform from which to speak out for farm animals.

Mary Tyler Moore and Gene Baur hold a resolution from the City of Newark, NJ.

Mary Tyler Moore and Gene Baur hold a resolution from the City of Newark, NJ.

“Mary lobbied on our behalf at both the state and federal level, supporting efforts to prevent factory farming cruelty, and chaired our Sentient Beings Campaign, wherein dozens of cities formally recognized farm animals as ‘sentient beings’ who deserve to be treated with respect and compassion,” Farm Sanctuary President and Co-founder Gene Baur fondly recalls. “Her appearance in Farm Sanctuary’s ‘Life Behind Bars’ (which she helped edit) supported the nascent successful legislative efforts to ban inhumane confinement systems, which commenced in Florida in 2002. I am very grateful to have known and worked closely with her. Thank you MTM for making the world a kinder place, and for being such a positive role model for all of us.”

Video: Mary Tyler Moore worked with Farm Sanctuary to expose the harsh reality of “Life Behind Bars” for farm animals.

“I’ve always felt a connection with animals, felt that they have emotions, that they suffer as we do, that they could teach us a great deal about compassion,” she once wrote.

Gene Baur and Mary Tyler Moore at Farm Sanctuary’s 2004 Gala, for which she served as chairperson.

Gene Baur and Mary Tyler Moore at Farm Sanctuary’s 2004 Gala, for which she served as chairperson. (Photo by Derek Goodwin)

Thank you, Ms. Moore, for your compassion, dedication, and friendship. The world is a kinder place because of you.

Gene Baur claps as Mary Tyler Moore speaks out about factory farming.

Gene Baur looks on as Mary Tyler Moore speaks out about factory farming.

Farm Sanctuary Speaks Out on USDA Labeling Guidelines — Have Your Say

Citizens are appalled to learn of the horrendous suffering that is commonplace in the production of meat, milk, and eggs, and they are increasingly looking for alternatives. Agribusiness has responded by marketing animal products with labels suggesting that farm animals are being treated well. But these labels make conditions sound better than they are, and well-meaning consumers are being misled.

The USDA is currently accepting public input on proposed labeling guidelines that are woefully inadequate, and Farm Sanctuary is encouraging citizens to weigh in and express their opinions. We’ve submitted the comments below.


(click to enlarge)

You can read more about the proposed guidelines and submit comments, which are due by December 5, 2016, here.

North Carolina’s ag-gag law is an affront to human decency

By Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary President & Co-Founder


In 1986, while investigating Lancaster Stockyards in Pennsylvania, I found a living sheep collapsed among the carcasses of the stockyard’s “dead pile.” She was a “downer,” an animal too sick or weak to stand, and she had been left there to die. She was the first animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary, then a fledgling advocacy organization. We named her Hilda, and we shared her story, illustrated by a photograph of her lying on that dead pile.

Hilda inspired us to intensify our investigations of Lancaster Stockyards, where we discovered that the mistreatment and neglect of downers was business as usual. We organized a protest, which garnered media attention and exposed the stockyard’s disregard for animal welfare. The public was outraged, and Lancaster Stockyards was compelled to announce that it would humanely euthanize downed animals instead of leaving them to suffer on its premises. By documenting and publicizing conditions at this facility, we were able to bring about necessary reforms.

Were I to advocate in the same way for an animal like Hilda today in North Carolina, I would be committing a criminal act.

Read more at Newsobserver.com


Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and Factory Farming

Cattle at a factory farm

You may already know that factory farming creates appalling animal suffering and environmental degradation. But did you know that it also poses a grave threat to our ability to treat serious bacterial infections?

The Majority of Antibiotics We Use are Given to Farm Animals

For decades, factory farms have administered large quantities of antibiotics — drugs designed for the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections — to animals who are not sick. In some cases, these drugs are used as prophylactics, to ward off potential infections. In other cases, the drugs are used to promote growth, hastening animals to their market weight. It is estimated that more than 70 percent of medically important antibiotics, i.e. antibiotics also used in humans, consumed in the U.S. are given to farm animals for non-therapeutic purposes. Worldwide, more than half of all antibiotics used are used on farm animals.

Pigs at a factory farm

The prophylactic use of antibiotics is especially prevalent among intensive farming operations, where crowding, poor living conditions, and a lack of individualized care make animals highly susceptible to infection. The large groups of confined animals on factory farms can become breeding grounds for pathogens, and such zoonotic diseases as salmonella, E. coli, avian influenza, and swine flu have all been linked to the industry. Preemptively administering antibiotics to entire herds or flocks does not eliminate the problem — rather, the practice creates an environment where bacteria can evolve rapidly under the selective pressure of the antibiotics and become resistant to them. By throwing massive quantities of antibiotics at the problem of infection in their herds, farmers are engaged in an arms race they are doomed to lose.

Antibiotic Resistance Is Dangerous for Everyone

According to Statista, drug-resistant infections are rising precipitously. The site reports that, “by 2050, ten million people are set to lose their lives every year unnecessarily unless drastic action is taken to tackle the problem.” As reported by the BBC, a new report from the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) has identified antibiotic use on farms as a crucial component of the human health threat.

Infographic: Deaths From Drug-Resistant Infections Set To Skyrocket | Statista
Chart via Statista

The AMR report (PDF) identifies multiple risks created by high antibiotic use, and the consequent evolution of drug-resistant bacteria, in farming: drug-resistant strains of bacteria may be passed directly between animals and humans (primarily farmers); drug-resistant strains may be passed to humans who consume meat and milk from infected animals; and both drug-resistant bacteria and un-metabolized antibiotics may be released into the environment through the animals’ excrement.

Once a resistant strain of bacteria has entered the human population, it has the potential to spread far and wide, infecting individuals regardless of whether or not they have worked with farm animals, come into contact with farm waste, or consumed infected meat and milk. The risk affects everyone.

Chickens at a factory farm

AMR observes that some last-resort antibiotics for humans are used extensively in animal farming. Last-resort antibiotics are those used only when other antibiotics have failed; these highly effective medications are used in this sparing manner in order to limit bacterial exposure to them and thus to stave off the development of resistance. In China, researchers recently found a bacterial gene conferring resistance to the antibiotic Colistin. Potentially damaging to the kidneys, Colistin is used only when a multi-resistant bacteria leaves no other option; due to the worldwide increase in such bacteria, doctors have been increasingly forced to rely on this last resort. Colistin-resistant bacteria have existed for some time, but this latest discovery is especially troubling, because the new gene found by researchers can be easily transferred between different bacteria. The gene appears to have arisen among farm animals and has now been found in human hospital patients.

Factory Farming and Antibiotics Are Inextricably Entangled

The AMR report states: “…we believe that there is sufficient evidence showing that the world needs to start curtailing the quantities of antimicrobials used in agriculture now.” The authors present three proposals for pursing this course of action: 1) establish a global target to reduce antibiotic use in food production to an agreed level and restrict the use of antibiotics that are important for human health; 2) rapidly develop minimum standards to reduce antimicrobial-manufacturing waste released into the environment; and 3) improve surveillance to monitor the problem and the progress toward its solution.

Dairy cows

Though these proposals may begin to address the crisis, they stop far short of a measure that is obvious to any farm animal advocate. Implementing regulations or incentives to reduce antibiotic use in factory farming is treating the symptom, not the disease. The excessive use of antibiotics in factory farming is motivated by the essential nature of the industry, which is based on treating animals as units of mass production. As long as staggering numbers of animals are raised in intensive confinement, these animals will continue to be especially vulnerable to pathogens, and the farms where they live will continue to present a threat to human health. Factory farming is the disease, and ending it is a therapy the world desperately needs.

For all those who view the abolition of factory farming as an extreme measure, the recent reports of accelerating antibiotic resistance should be a wake-up call: The situation is already extreme. We are facing a catastrophic threat to human health, and in these desperate times, the dismantling of industrial agriculture is an eminently sane measure.

Want to make your voice heard about this issue? Sign our petition to urge your elected officials to take a stand.

Rescue reunion: 10 years later, rescuers visit the pig they helped save

Truffles pig and rescuer

Truffles pig and Denise, who helped rescue her, meet again at Farm Sanctuary.

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Truffles pig is a testament of the healing power of love. This wonderful pig, a favorite of many Farm Sanctuary visitors, will be ten this year — an incredible feat considering her origins. She was raised to live to just six months of age, by which time she would have been slaughtered for meat. Instead, nearly a decade later, she is the matriarch of her sounder, loved and respected both by her fellow pigs and her human friends at our New York Shelter.

During her first few weeks of life, Truffles was removed from her mother and subjected to tail docking without pain relief, both standard procedures on factory farms. Confused and frightened, she was then packed onto a hot and crowded transport truck to travel to a finishing farm, where piglets are fattened for slaughter. Her escape from this fate was fortunate, but not without additional hardships. She fell off of a truck into heavy traffic on Interstate 69 in Indiana, and was bruised and bloody from the fall.

Truffles piglet

Truffles as a piglet at Farm Sanctuary

Fortunately, luck and love were on her side. A young woman was driving in the opposite direction on the way to a concert when she saw Truffles fall and knew that she had to save her. She reached Truffles before any cars could hit her and brought the piglet to her car, where she placed her on a blanket in the back seat. For the first time in her short life, Truffles was safe — and she was on her way to a new life. Continue reading

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t “Rescue” Animals by Buying Them

Rescue ducklings

Three ducklings recently rescued by Farm Sanctuary after being purchased from a hatchery and shipped through the mail.

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

In early September, we welcomed three ducklings to our Northern California Shelter. These youngsters had survived two days in the mail after they were purchased from a hatchery. The buyer, a vegan, had the best intentions: He wanted to prevent the ducks from being purchased by someone who would raise them for meat. But his method was flawed.

Peril in the Post

When their purchaser was unexpectedly hospitalized and unable to pick them up at the post office, the ducklings were at risk of being shipped back to the hatchery. Hatcheries are not farms; they are designed only to hatch and immediately ship birds, and there is no place to send back chicks, ducklings, or poults.

Like millions of baby birds purchased every year for backyard egg and meat production, the newly hatched ducks endured a traumatizing trip through the mail in a simple cardboard box, with no temperature control, no food, and no water. These three were sent to fulfill an order for only two ducklings; the hatchery automatically included a replacement duckling in case one didn’t make it to the destination. This tells you both how common it is for mailed birds to die in transit and how little the hatcheries care about the safety and well-being of the individual animals they sell.

Rescue ducklings

Like millions of other baby birds each year, the ducklings were shipped thousands of miles in a simple cardboard box.

Despite the grave risks of shipping animals through the mail, this practice is completely legal in the case of those classified as poultry. By contrast, transporting a cat or dog in this manner is illegal, and, as a 2011 case in Minnesota demonstrated, can result in criminal charges. Continue reading

Disaster on the Highway

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

On the night of June 8, a semi-trailer truck crashed through a guardrail and tumbled down a ravine near Xenia, Ohio. On board the trailer were 2,200 piglets.

Between 300 and 400 of the piglets were killed on impact or so badly injured that they later had to be humanely euthanized by responders. Approximately 1,500 of the survivors were quickly captured and brought to a nearby fairground to be held until a second truck arrived the next morning to bring them to their original destination. That left an unknown number of piglets loose somewhere in the surrounding woods.

The Search

Farm Sanctuary was alerted to the accident the night it happened. National Farm Animal Placement Coordinator Alicia Pell immediately began contacting local authorities for information and to offer Farm Sanctuary’s help. She eventually learned that no one had kept an accurate count of the fatalities or of the live piglets who had been picked up by the trucking company. This meant no one knew how many piglets had disappeared into the woods. One estimate by local authorities put the number at 200.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (OHDNR) took charge of the search. The trucking company had relinquished custody of any remaining piglets after it picked up those at the fairground, counting the missing ones as an economic loss. The OHDNR informed us that any survivors would be free to go to sanctuary. With that assurance, we mobilized a rescue team.

The team arrived in Ohio the second morning after the crash. Five staff members had driven from our New York Shelter with a trailer, traveling all night to arrive as soon as possible; meanwhile, Alicia and a staff member from the Southern California shelter had flown in from the L.A. area. The team spent the next two days searching in coordination with the OHDNR and a number of volunteers who showed up to help.


After two days of searching, the rescue team had found no piglets. The search area was vast, and the forest was dense with undergrowth. Searchers could have walked within a few feet of a piglet and not seen him or her. Nonetheless, we concluded that the guess of 200 loose piglets was likely incorrect; the OHDNR estimates that there might be a dozen at most. We also concluded that the only effective way to find any survivors would be through a comprehensive search similar to the kind mobilized for human children missing in the woods, with dozens or more people combing the search area simultaneously. The authorities would not or could not launch such a search with their own manpower and would not allow such large numbers of volunteers into the area. Continue reading

What You Need to Know about Avian Flu

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Three states — Minnesota, Wisconsin and now Iowa– have proclaimed a state of emergency, with millions of commercial birds believed to be infected by avian influenza. The death count is multiplying by the day and it’s estimated we’ll see 20 million birds destroyed overall as a result of the worst bird flu outbreak to strike the U.S. since the 1980s. Here’s what you need to know about this disease.

Chickens raised for slaughter

What is avian influenza?
Avian influenza (AI), or bird flu, refers to a number of viruses that infect birds. The viruses are classified as either low pathogenicity (LPAI), which causes a relatively mild illness, or high pathogenicity (HPAI), and results in severe illness.

Beginning in December 2014, HPAI was found in ducks in the Pacific Northwest, marking the first time in years that it had been detected in the U.S. Since then, multiple HPAI strains have infected flocks of domestic birds in multiple states. Strains H5N8 and H5N1 infected flocks on the West Coast, where the disease now appears to be dying down somewhat due to hot, dry conditions. Strain H5N2 is currently raging through the Midwest and making its way east.

The CDC reports that the strains of AI currently active in the U.S. pose a very low risk to humans. Among birds, however, they are highly contagious and in most cases fatal.

Where has AI spread?


Note: Detected refers to non-commercial findings. Estimates as of May 1, 2015.

As NPR reports, Minnesota has been hit hardest, with close to 50 flocks affected, but the disease has struck many other states as well.

Wherever the virus is found, USDA and state officials kill the entire flock in order to contain the disease. The standard culling method is to fill the housing buildings with a water-based foam that suffocates the birds to death.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) designates this method as an appropriate means of “mass depopulation,” defined as “methods by which large numbers of animals must be destroyed quickly and efficiently with as much consideration given to the welfare of the animals as practicable, but where the circumstances and tasks facing those doing the depopulation are understood to be extenuating.” This endorsement tells you much less about the type of death delivered by the foam — which is undoubtedly horrid — than it does about the abysmal standards of welfare that pass as acceptable in an industry predicated on mass confinement and slaughter. By raising birds in groups of tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions, producers create conditions in which humane euthanasia, or humane treatment of any sort for that matter, is impossible. The circumstances are “extenuating” by design.

In the U.S., more than 15.1 million domestic birds have been killed due to AI detections since the beginning of March 2015. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of reported detections and cullings:

Minnesota: As of April 27, the virus has been detected in at least 46 turkey farms, and at least 2.7 million turkeys have been killed. The virus also has been detected in a facility raising chickens for meat and a laying hen facility, resulting in a total of over 500,000 chickens in Minnesota being killed. Additionally 150 turkeys belonging to a backyard flock were killed.

Iowa: There have been eight detections resulting in a total of almost 10 million deaths. At two turkey farms, a total of 61,000 turkeys were killed. At each of two egg facilities, 3.8 million hens were killed, and at another three egg facilities and a pullet farm a total of 2.3 million chickens were killed.

Wisconsin: There have been eight detections. At two egg facilities, a total of 980,000 chickens were killed. At five turkey facilities, 467,500 turkeys were killed. In a backyard flock, 40 mixed-breed chickens were killed.

South Dakota: AI was detected at six turkey farms, and 285,000 turkeys were killed.

North Dakota: AI was detected at two turkey farms. At the two facilities, 109,000 turkeys were killed. An additional 2,000 chickens also were killed at one of the facilities.

Arkansas: AI was detected at one turkey farm, where 40,000 turkeys were killed.

Missouri: AI was detected at two turkey farms, where 52,000 turkeys were killed.

Kansas: A low pathogenic strain of AI was detected in a commercial poultry facility in Kansas. The species and total number of birds affected were not released. An unknown number of ducks and chickens in a backyard flock also were killed.

California: There have been five detections including two wild ducks. At two turkey farms, 206,000 turkeys were killed (at one of these facilities, only a low-pathogenicity strain was found; nonetheless all of the facilities’ turkeys were killed). At one “broiler” chicken and duck facility, 114,000 birds were killed.

In addition to the states listed above, AI has been detected in the following states in wild migratory waterfowl, captive wild birds (such as falcons), and/or backyard flocks:

New Mexico

AI has also been found in Ontario and in British Columbia, where it was first detected in December 2014, before we were tracking the spread of the disease. The total number of birds affected at turkey and chicken facilities in British Columbia is reported to have been 250,000. In Ontario, the virus has been found in two turkey facilities and one facility raising chickens for meat with a total of 52,800 turkeys killed and 27,000 chickens killed.

Please check our Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN) Facebook page for updates. We continue to track new outbreaks. The disease is still spreading. This is an epidemic.

How has AI spread?
AI is spread in two ways: 1) directly from bird to bird, and 2) through contact with the manure of an infected bird. AI can be spread by equipment, vehicles, clothing, and other materials that have come into contact with the manure of infected birds. This includes, for instance, the shoes of someone who has walked by a lake where infected ducks have left droppings. (Additionally, some researchers have speculated that strong winds blowing infected debris into animal housing may have contributed to the broad reach of HPAI in Minnesota; however, biosecurity failures are still believed to be the primary cause of the Minnesota outbreak.)


The spread of the virus has been linked to wild migratory birds, especially ducks and geese. Typically asymptomatic, these birds are able to carry the disease from area to area and shed it in their droppings. In domestic birds, especially turkeys, HPAI induces a ghastly and highly lethal disease.

Why have so many birds died?
While the migrations of wild birds help account for the broad geographical reach of this epidemic, it is industrial farming practices that account for the staggering mortality. The reason 3.8 million birds fell victim to AI in a single Iowa facility is because there were 3.8 million birds in a single facility.

Keeping large numbers of animals together, especially in the intensely crowded conditions characteristic of factory farms, leaves those animals highly vulnerable to disease. (In fact, these conditions may even create breeding grounds for new strains of diseases. Learn more about factory farming and disease.)

Battery Cages

Ironically, factory farm proponents have long cited biosecurity as a justification for keeping large numbers of animals confined in buildings with no outdoor access. As we’ve seen in this epidemic, biosecurity at these facilities is failing, and the confinement practices that ostensibly enable tight biosecurity are instead dooming millions of birds to disease and culling.

What is Farm Sanctuary doing to protect its shelter birds?
When HPAI appeared in California, we took immediate action to protect the birds at our shelters in Orland and Acton. We suspended visitor access to bird areas and instituted a “no birds in, no birds out” policy at both shelters. This means, unfortunately, that we cannot perform any bird rescues involving these locations while the HPAI risk remains high.

We have isolated our shelter birds from contaminants using tight-weave shade tarps, which keep wild fowl out of our bird areas and also prevent their feces from dropping into those areas as they fly over. We have also had to close off our ponds to the birds — ponds are the areas that pose the greatest risk of infection from wild waterfowl, who often land on open water to swim and eat.

All staff members at these shelters must now don special ISO gear and use foot baths when entering any bird area, and they are advised to change into different shoes upon entering the shelter in general from the outside, as an extra precaution. Additionally, all staff members are trained to identify signs of disease, both in our resident birds and in any wild birds in the area.

New York
As yet there have been no reported cases of HPAI east of Wisconsin, but it has reportedly been found in wild birds and/or backyard flocks. That said, the disease could spread further as waterfowl continue their spring migrations. We are following the movement of the disease closely and remain in constant contact with our vets. Currently, we are working with our avian vet at Cornell to review and update our AI protocols.

The Watkins Glen shelter has a large population of chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese belonging to many distinct flocks that must be kept separate. Implementing the strict biosecurity measures necessary to protect them all from AI would be a massive effort. We want to allow the birds to have a semblance of the life they enjoy at our sanctuaries while still being safe from this disease.


We are dedicated to maintaining the strictest biosecurity at all of our shelters in the path of HPAI. These measures are crucial not only to safeguard our birds from disease but also to avoid giving the USDA any grounds for demanding that our shelter birds be culled if the epidemic continues to spread, worsen, or spread to other species.

Farmers have a strong economic incentive to protect their flocks, but for us this is personal. We know each turkey, each chicken, each duck, and each goose at our shelters as an individual with a name and a personality. They are our friends. The millions of deaths resulting from HPAI, like the billions of deaths resulting from the consumption of meat and eggs each year, are catastrophic. But HPAI also represents a catastrophe for each individual bird: the ultimate devastation of losing one’s life. To us, the cause of each bird in our care is urgent and worthy of our very best efforts.

What Can I Do to Protect My Birds from AI?
We’ll say it again: This is an epidemic. Proper biosecurity is crucial for the protection of your own backyard flock and the birds in your area. If you care for any birds such as turkeys, chickens, ducks, or geese, please stay updated on the spread of the disease and be prepared to implement quarantine measures if it nears your area. You can check our FAAN Facebook page for the latest on AI outbreaks.

PreventativeMeasures_AI_IG_blog-01 (1)

Read more on AI from the USDA.

* According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), birds infected with AI may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • sudden death without clinical signs
  • lack of energy and appetite
  • decreased egg production
  • soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
  • purple discoloration of wattles, combs, and legs
  • nasal discharge
  • coughing and sneezing
  • lack of coordination
  • diarrhea

How can I help?

Donate now-blogWe’ve already incurred costs from securing our California shelters against avian influenza. If the disease nears our New York Shelter, the expense of protecting our birds there will be much greater. With your help, we can keep them safe. Please donate now.

Humane Meat: A Contradiction in Terms

By Bruce Friedrich, Director of Policy and Advocacy

People have become increasingly aware that virtually all of the 9 billion land animals slaughtered in the United States each year for their meat are terribly mistreated. In fact, routine farming practices are so abusive that they would warrant felony animal cruelty charges if they were done to cats or dogs.


As a result, more and more compassionate people have joined the ranks of those who choose to eat a vegan diet. Some, however, have looked instead to meat from animals treated less badly, which is often stamped with a “humane certified,” or other such label, and may be referred to as “humane meat.”

This raises two questions in my mind. First, is there such a thing as truly “humane meat”? And second, even if we agree that some meat involves better conditions than conventional meat, should animal advocates promote it? I will address both questions in turn.

Is there such a thing as humane meat?
Let’s pose a question: Would you be willing to eat “humanely raised dog meat” or “humanely raised cat meat”?


I suspect not, and yet there is no rational difference between eating a dog or a pig, a cat or a chicken. All of these species are made of flesh, blood, and bone. And they have interests and personalities, as everyone who has spent time at Farm Sanctuary knows so well.

In fact, scientists have shown that pigs and chickens outperform dogs and cats on scientific tests of behavioral and cognitive sophistication. For the same reason that there is no such thing as humane dog meat, there is also no such thing as humane chicken, pork, or beef. Simply put, killing an animal in order to eat her cannot be called humane.

Let’s pose a second question: Would you be willing to cut an animal’s throat? For most of us, taking an animal’s life is abhorrent; we just wouldn’t do it. Of course, all of us could spend an afternoon participating in every aspect of getting plants to the table — picking them, packaging them, etc. But there is no aspect of slaughtering animals that is similarly pleasant, no aspect that any of us would enjoy doing.


If you’re like most people, you would not slice open a chicken’s throat for something as inconsequential as a meal. But this is precisely what we’re doing if we’re eating meat. Although we’re not personally killing the animal, we are paying someone to do it for us. And if we wouldn’t do it ourselves — if we wouldn’t even want to watch it — we should ask ourselves, where is the basic integrity in paying someone to do something we are opposed to?

Should animal advocates promote “humane meat”?
We should also understand that our decisions can have a strong impact on other people, and our decision to eat any meat at all (even if the meat is from producers that are less abusive) may influence others to eat factory farmed meat.

I’ve been a vegan for 27 years, and, in that time, I’ve convinced many friends and acquaintances to follow my lead. Each one of these individuals saves just as many animals through their veganism as I do through mine. Every person I convince to choose a plant-based diet increases my lifetime impact as a vegan.

But the reverse is also true: By not advocating veganism, all of those animals who could have been saved will instead suffer terrible lives and die horrible deaths.

Most people observing someone eating “humane” meat simply see a fellow meat-eater. They are not likely to change their own diets, because what they see is simply meat. Beyond that, eating “humane” meat is far more difficult than eating a vegan diet. Every restaurant in the country has something for vegans to eat, and it’s almost always cheaper than the meat-based alternatives. The vast majority of cities don’t have even a single restaurant that serves meat from animals who have not been factory farmed.

Obviously, working for improved living and dying conditions for farmed animals is a critical element in the animal rights movement. We should be fighting to ban gestation crates and battery cages. We should be working to ensure that the Humane Slaughter Act is properly enforced. The vast majority of Americans explicitly support banning abusive systems and decreasing abuse at slaughter, and we should strive to align our laws with our national values.

It’s important for the animals involved that we take steps toward ending the cruelty they endure every day. We cannot ignore the animals who are currently suffering.

But for anyone who truly cares about animals, veganism is the only choice that aligns our values — our opposition to cruelty and killing — with our actions.

It’s not that much to ask, and lives are depending on us.



The Truth about Foie Gras: Part 1

An interview with Bruce Friedrich, Senior Policy Director
– Staff writer

On July 1, 2012, after an eight-year waiting period, California became the first U.S. state to outlaw the production of foie gras and the only place in the world where its sale is illegal. This development was a milestone for Farm Sanctuary and our allies; we have been fighting to draw attention to the horrible abuse involved in foie gras production for decades.

French for “fatty liver,” foie gras is the diseased, fat-engorged liver of a duck or goose. Foie gras producers force-feed their birds large quantities of corn and fat by thrusting a metal tube down their throats and pumping meal directly into their stomachs two to three times a day for several weeks. At the end of this period, with livers swollen eight to ten times the normal size, the birds who have not already died from collateral injuries or ailments are slaughtered.

We sat down with Senior Policy Director Bruce Friedrich and National Shelter Director Susie Coston to find out the essential information about the industry, its victims and survivors, and the progress we’re making to end this incredibly cruel practice. In Part 1, Bruce fills us in on the issues.

What are the main challenges facing opponents of foie gras production?
Relatively few ducks are raised for foie gras compared to the numbers of hens used for eggs and chickens for meat. Many people have never even heard of foie gras, and those who have heard of it often aren’t aware of the cruelty involved in production.


Inside a foie gras facility.

What are some of the arguments put forward by proponents of foie gras, and how do you respond to these?
The most common defense is to talk in general terms about “freedom” and the “choice” to eat whatever we please. The second most common argument is to point out the abuses that occur in other food industries and to claim that banning foie gras represents class discrimination in that it primarily affects the wealthy, who are its predominant consumers. Foie gras proponents also argue that ducks naturally gorge themselves and that force-feeding, therefore, mimics nature.

We reframe the “freedom” and “choice” argument from abstract language to specific. Everyone generally supports individual freedoms, but almost no one thinks that you should be able to choose to abuse dogs and cats. When we speak specifically about the abuse foie gras entails, most consumers agree with us that it should be illegal. Few people think it’s acceptable to cram pipes down animals’ throats and to induce a horribly painful disease — and that’s what foie gras does and is.

Regarding class discrimination, we point out that this rationale is simply an attempt to avoid the issue. People who are unwilling to discuss the reality of the actual practices of foie gras are in a pretty sorry rhetorical position. And, of course, supporters of foie gras bans oppose the worst abuses in all food industries, not just foie gras, including extreme confinement systems, inhumane methods of poultry slaughter, and many more.

Finally, on the issue of whether gorging is natural, we point to the overwhelming scientific evidence that indicates that it’s not natural for ducks and geese to eat so much that their livers swell to ten times their natural size. And, of course, in a natural environment, they don’t eat so much that their death rate rises, let alone skyrockets in the way it does during foie gras production. Force-fed ducks die at 10 to 20 times the rate of non-force-fed ducks, according to a European Union study — and that was in a controlled environment.

Canadian_foie_gras_486x280yScientific studies have found that foie gras birds suffer from impaired liver function, skeletal disorders, and other serious illnesses. Many becoming so sick they can barely move. See this article for more on the scientific indictment of the foie gras industry.
Foie gras proponents also argue that ducks do not react aversely to force-feeding. That claim is belied by a large body of undercover video collected by multiple groups over the past two decades, which provides ample footage of ducks clearly struggling in pain as the pipes are thrust down their throats.

Investigations have uncovered, among other horrors, cramped and filthy living conditions; ducks with gruesome, untreated injuries such as broken bills and neck wounds; ducks with organs damaged or ruptured by force-feeding; workers roughly handling and brutally killing ducks; and barrels full of dead ducks. This video, for example, was recorded by an investigator working undercover at one facility (be warned, it includes graphic footage of suffering and death).

Hudson_Valley_NY_foie_gras_486x280What is the current state of foie gras legislation and legal action nationally? Are there any bills pending?
Foie gras is banned in California, and we are working with our friends at the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Compassion Over Killing (COK) on a national solution by suing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ban foie gras based on the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). Under PPIA, the USDA is responsible for condemning products derived from diseased birds, which foie gras ducks and geese certainly are. Hepatic lipidosis, the condition purposefully induced by force-feeding, is a disease.

Has the California ban proved effective? Are chefs defying it or exploiting loopholes to a significant degree?
The ban has been very effective. Although a few chefs are having temper tantrums and attempting to skirt the law (for instance, by giving foie gras away instead of selling it), the vast majority of places that offered it before no longer do. And, the one foie gras producer in California — one of three in the nation — has ceased foie gras production altogether.

Does the implementation of the California ban pave the way for bans elsewhere?
We are hopeful that California’s move will be the end of foie gras in the United States. Our friends at the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Animal Protection and Rescue League, in particular, are doing some great work to relegate this product of torture to the dust bin of history. California was the number one market for foie gras in this country by far. The state has taken a powerful stance that will continue to resonate.

In Part 2, Susie Coston introduces some of the ducks of Farm Sanctuary who have found refuge from the foie gras industry, including Harper and Kohl, Monet and Matisse, and three of our newest residents: Ellen, Carrie, Emily, and Kristen. She describes the gentle care they receive to treat their sick and abused bodies and to overcome their tremendous fear of humans.