The Truth About Foie Gras?

This “enlightening” piece by John Mariani in Esquire magazine leads off with:

Animal rights activists say duck liver is evil, the by-product of an abusive system. They don’t know what they’re talking about.

Mariani doesn’t know what he is talking about. First of all, actual animal rights activists consider the consumption of duck liver–and all animal-derived products–to be wrong because doing so involves the totally unnecessary commodification and exploitation of another living being, not because conditions for producing foie gras are simply inhumane. Mariani is confusing rights with welfare, which is no surprise considering how many animal rights activists do the same thing.

Then the article actually gets started, spending its focus entirely on the relatively high welfare experienced by force fed captive ducks at Hudson Valley Foie Gras’ massive operation in the Catskills, where he “didn’t see any of this suffering those crazies are screaming on and on about.” Regardless of how foie gras is produced at this or any other facility (clearly not all facilities are the same), rights violations are occurring. This article conveniently forgets (or does not care) about whether the ducks have an interest in living in their natural environment, expressing natural behaviors and doing something other having their livers fattened up so they can be slaughtered as a “delicacy.”

Animal activism that fixates on welfare standards inevitably comes down to stand-offs like this one: “Hey, man, these animals are treated better than a lot of people. Get off our backs so we can get on with eating them.” Sure, the animals most people eat most of the time are treated atrociously, and the only way to make sure one avoids this cruelty is to avoid eating them. But this path does not lead to respecting animals’ rights. It implies rather that it’s acceptable to eat a hamburger (or foie gras, for that matter) if you know the “food animal” led a life comparable to your own “companion animal”, even though you’d never consider eating your companion (voila: moral schizophrenia).

“…there’s no need to feel guilty,” Mariani concludes. But he has not made that case at all. He has simply put forth another weak attempt at justifying unjust behavior by making it seem harmless (note that he doesn’t focus on the slaughter, though). He’s succeeded in making welfarism look foolish, but he has not even begun to understand animal rights.



  1. After all, an unhealthy animal is, obviously, not an animal that can be used for food.”That sentence makes it clear that he has no idea what he’s talking about on any level.

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