Thursday, October 13, 2011

Minn. foie gras producer challenges notion that process is cruel

by Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
October 10, 2011

Caledonia, Minn. — On a winding road in southeastern Minnesota, there's a 60-acre farm unlike any other in the Midwest.

Au Bon Canard, or "good duck" in French, is where Christian Gasset raises ducks to produce a culinary delicacy: foie gras, or fattened duck liver. The Au Bon Canard duck livers — along with breasts, wings and other parts — end up on plates of the most celebrated restaurants in the Upper Midwest.

Inside a barn on Gasset's farm on a recent morning, four long wooden pens each held about 16 adult male ducks, with room for the ducks to walk around. Gasset and his wife, Liz Gibson-Gasset, moved slowly to keep the birds calm.

"With foie gras, the really big thing is you can't have a good product if you're not treating your ducks well," she said. "If they're unhappy, if they're stressed out, if anything's wrong with their living conditions, you don't get a good product."

But as much as the Gassets try to keep their birds content, how they and other foie gras producers feed ducks makes the product controversial. Animal rights activists say the process used to fatten the ducks' livers amounts to animal torture.

The Gassets, who started their business in 2004, raise and slaughter about 2,100 males ducks a year, a fraction of what their competitors in New York and California produce. The birds on their farm are Mullard ducks, a cross between Pekins and Muscovies. They arrived from California as day-old chicks.

After living the first few weeks in a temperature-controlled room, they spend another eight weeks or so outdoors, eating a mixture of corn, bugs and grass before going into the barn for controlled feedings.

Twice a day for the last two weeks of a duck's life, Gasset tilts the bird's head back, inserts an eight-inch funnel into its throat and pours three-quarters of a pound of freshly cooked kettle corn down the duck's esophagus.

The corn goes into a small organ called the crop, which Gasset massages for a few seconds as he pulls the funnel out. It takes him seven seconds to feed each bird.

Gasset said controlling the amount of corn the duck ingests during the last two weeks of its life plumps its liver up to 10 times its normal size — making it foie gras. As the liver's color changes from black to yellow, its texture becomes creamy, like butter.

Gasset said the process is meant to mimic the way a bird puts on weight before fall migration, even though the ducks never migrate. To him, many of those who criticize the process simply don't want anyone to eat meat and see foie gras as an easy target.

"It's such a small production and you kind of target the rich people, because it's a really extremely expensive product at the end," he said.

Full story and video at link

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Marshall MO town hall meeting to discuss threats to agriculture

Town hall meeting planned for Oct. 26 in Marshall to discuss threats to agriculture
Thursday, October 6, 2011

Marshall Democrat-News
Two agriculture organizations and four Missouri legislators are hosting a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Martin Community Center in Marshall to discuss threats to agriculture.

Representatives from Missouri Farmers Care and Sante Fe Agri-Leaders are expected to help lead the discussion. According to a news release from MFC, state Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, and state representatives Joe Aull, D-Marshall; Caleb Jones, R-California; and Mike Lair, R-Chillicothe, are also expected to attend.

The announcement specifically mentions the Humane Society of the United States as a threat. HSUS sponsored the controversial "puppy mill" ballot issue that narrowly passed in 2010 and was subsequently revised by the legislature.

HSUS reportedly backs a current initiative petition that would place on the ballot a measure limiting the Missouri legislature's ability to amend laws approved by referendum.

Supporters of the measure hope to have it considered during a 2012 election.

For more information, contact Dan Kleinsorge at or 573-821-2040
Online: Missouri Farmers Care News

Attorneys disqualified in Palm Springs Animal Shelter lawsuit

An animal rights group will likely appeal an Indio judge’s ruling to disqualify attorneys representing it in a suit against the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, a spokeswoman for the group said.

Riverside Superior Court Judge John G. Evans granted a motion Monday by shelter attorneys to disqualify Marla Tauscher, a private practice attorney in Palm Springs representing the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and fund attorney Michelle Lee.

Evans granted the motion because Tauscher at one point gave Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter legal advice, helped prepare manuals and waivers and attended at least one closed-door board meeting, according to court records.

Lee was disqualified because she had access to the information Tauscher had, Palm Springs city attorney Doug Holland said.

"Disqualification is mandatory in light of the substantial relationship,” court records on the ruling stated. “It is immaterial that Ms. Tauscher did not have an express contact for legal services, as an attorney-client relationship can be established when the attorney volunteers his or her legal services or otherwise provides legal advice to a prospective client even where there is no free agreement.”

Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter is a nonprofit group that raised money to build the new city shelter, scheduled to open Oct. 22.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a suit in April against the city alleging the shelter euthanizes animals too quickly and has lax record-keeping.

“Even though we have an abundance of evidence about the unlawful killing of animals at the Palm Springs Shelter, the city has maneuvered to try to kill the case by getting rid of the lawyers representing the interests of the animals,” said Lisa Franzetta of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

“We are currently considering our next legal options for how best to win the justice that the homeless animals of Palm Springs so desperately need and deserve.”

A status hearing is scheduled for Dec. 2 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio. Full story

Lawsuit alleges Palm Springs Animal Shelter Euthanizes Too Soon

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Restore the U.S. Horse Industry

6,808 letters and emails have now been sent from the Petition2Congress site requesting Congress to restore the U.S. horse industry.

As U.S. horse industry members, supporters, and concerned citizens we call on Congress to take proactive measures to stop the needless suffering of horses and people by 1) removing the annual riders from the Ag Appropriations bill that prevent USDA inspection on a voluntary fee basis (the processor pays for the inspection) which does not cost the taxpayer a dime, allows for the overnight creation of hundreds of private sector jobs, and allows the entire horse industry to begin to regain economic value, viability and vitality; and 2) oppose any and all measures that use the heavy hand of federal intervention such as S. 1176 and H.R. 2296 that do absolutely nothing to improve the welfare of horses, and only result in increased suffering.

You can Sign the petition at the link.

Equine Scientists Debunk Horsemeat Health Risk Claims


October 4, 2011

Dave Duquette, 541 751 7588
Sue Wallis, 307 685 8248 (ranch) 307 80 8515 (cell)

Health Risk of Horse Meat is Unsubstantiated

Four prominent equine scientists, Dr. Don Henneke, Phd, Dr. Sheryl King, Phd, PAS, Dr. William Day, Phd and Dr. Patricia Evans, EdD, have written a strongly worded letter to the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology in regards to a February 2010 paper, "Association of phenylbutzone usage in horses bought for slaughter: a public health risk" by Nicholas Dodman, Nicolas Blondeau, and Ann M. Marini, pointing out the unscientific, politically motivated erroneous conclusions of the paper. The letter points out the fallacy of "mixing sound research conducted on humans with unrelated sound research from horses." The clear message of the four equine scientists is that the journal paper's authors "attempt to formulate an unfounded and unsubstantiated conclusion that horsemeat derived from American horses contains residues of phenylbutazone that are harmful to humans. This conclusion is not supported by the research cited or any other research..."

The paper's authors as well as the so-called experts credited with contribution to the article are all linked to extremist animal rights organizations that have been attacking America's farmers and ranchers. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and their animal rights activist cronies continue to try to discredit the animal agriculture industry's commonsense, factual reasoning for the need for humane horse processing in the United States.

"We are heartened that scientists have stepped up to challenge this flagrant attack on the hard working, tax paying horse people of America," says Wyoming state representative, Sue Wallis, one of the leaders of a nationwide grassroots horse industry organization, United Horsemen. "The journal article is penned by scientists and uncredentialed lay people known primarily for their radical animal rights political views."

"Facts are stubborn things;" wrote founding father John Adams, "and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

"Thanks to dedicated scientists insisting on strict adherence to the scientific method," says Dave Duquette, working cow horse trainer and president of United Horsemen, "we have the facts, science, and evidence to disprove this blatant attempt to fool Congress and betray America's farmers and ranchers."

The equine scientists conclude their letter by stating that,

"As equine science Instructors, we strive to present factual information to our students in an unbiased manner. The topic of horse slaughter is controversial and emotional. No horse owner looks forward to making end of life decisions concerning their animals. Humane euthanasia, whether it is done at the veterinarian's facility, the owner's facility, or the slaughter facility, is not an easy decision to make. We believe that the decision should be left up to the individual horse owner. In the current economic climate, the availability of humane euthanasia must remain a viable option for the health of the horse industry. The publication of this obviously biased article by such a reputable source raises real concerns about the value of the peer review process. We trust that future acceptance of articles by Food and Chemical Toxicology concerning the horse will be properly reviewed prior to acceptance and publication."

The letter authors also issued a detailed advisory to Congress regarding the unsubstantiated claims in the journal article, and the evidence for the safety of horsemeat produced from U.S. horses.