Today, on Salon, Thomas Rogers wades into the foie gras discussion, reporting that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has been granted discovery (a fairly routine part of a lawsuit) in a complaint against Hudson Valley foie gras, which will allow the HSUS access to certain farm records and facilities in order to prove their case. Basically, the suit is over an alleged elevated animal waste level, a pollutant. The farm claims the figure was just a bookkeeping error; the HSUS counters that the farm should pay the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in reparation.
The real bit of interest in this dispute is that even if the court finds in favor of the farm, the legal bills threaten to put them out of business. And that may be part of HSUS’s strategy–this isn’t the first time the group has sued the farm.
The most recent lawsuit from the HSUS, which was thrown out by the New York Supreme Court, accused the farm (and the New York State Department of Agriculture) of selling an adulterated food product, because, the plaintiffs said, the livers of force-fed ducks are diseased. The result of this constant stream of lawsuits from the HSUS means that the farm’s legal bills each month amount to $50,000 or more.
So perhaps the farm will be put out of business by these ongoing legal battles. The consequence may be that restaurants resort to imported foie gras from Canada and France. But Hudson Valley actually produces foie gras on a much, much smaller scale than the more industrialized farms in Canada and France, some of which also use the tiny, individual duck cages that immobilize the bird, which you see in most anti-foie gras material. Hudson Valley uses larger, group pens, in which the animals can walk around, sit down, and flap their wings. But if Hudson Valley, one of the only domestic producers of foie gras (and duck meat), is put out of business, restaurants may end up supporting those industrial farms, a undesirable situation to be sure.
Is Foie Gras Torture?