From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1999:
WASHINGTON D.C.––PETA scored a rare victory
over the foie gras industry on August 23 when the
Smithsonian Institution cancelled a scheduled September 21
book-signing party for Michael Ginor, owner of Hudson
Valley Foie Gras, whose volume Foie Gras…A Passion was
to be published by Wylie Inc. in mid-September.
The cancellation, heavily covered by both The New
York Times and The Washington Post, brought unprecedented
public attention to how foie gras is made: by either pouring
grain or pumping a pureed mash directly into the stomachs of
restrained ducks and geese, through a plastic or metal tube
thrust down their throats. The force-feeding causes the ducks
and geese to rapidly develop abnormally fat-laden livers.
After the birds are killed, their livers are blended into a paste.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the largest and almost the
only U.S. producer, was operating as Commonwealth Farms
and was reportedly almost bankrupt when acquired by Ginor
and his partner Izzy Yanay circa 1991. Yanay already owned
another upstate New York foie gras firm, which merged into
the Hudson Valley operation.
PETA hoped to finish off foie gras in the U.S. by
bringing cruelty charges against the Hudson Valley management
in 1992, based on evidence obtained in a 1991 undercover
probe. The case was to have been prosecuted by the
American SPCA, but the ASPCA backed off. Then-ASPCA
president Roger Caras claimed the PETA documentation
would not have held up in court because it was obtained without
a search warrant, and argued further that the sale of the
company to Ginor and Yanay in the interim had removed the
element of “probable cause” which the ASPCA would need to
obtain a search warrant and do a new investigation.
PETA and the ASPCA continued pointing fingers at
each other through late 1995––especially after ASPCA veterinarian
Michael Krinsley reported finding no cruelty at Hudson
Valley in a January 1995 arranged visit. PETA argued that the
pathology report on a dead bird retrieved by Krinsley showed
“an animal in extremis,” whose “esophagus is so thickened,
inflamed and infected from the forced feeding, that he could
never eat on his own.”
Reprieved by the ASPCA inaction, Hudson Valley
reportedly now does $9 million per year in sales, with profits
of about 21% per year.
PETA became aware of the Smithsonian event and
issued a letter of protest on July 25. The Humane Society of
the U.S. joined in objection about two weeks later.
Smithsonian director of communications David J.
Umansky said 133 people bought tickets to the foie gras event,
and would receive refunds.
“We telephoned a large cross section and found
there was unease about what might happen at the program,”
Umansky said. “Because we are always concerned with the
well-being of our participants, we have regretfully concluded
that it would be in the best interests of everyone involved to
cancel the program.”