Think of the animal rights movement as predators that threaten an entire herd: All the animals are under threat but it is the weak, stragglers, or isolated that face the most concerted attack.
Thus, while all animal research facilities are under threat, Huntingdon Life Sciences is the most vilified and its contractors and service providers most subjected to ancillary targeting. Why HLS? It was weakened, when years ago, a British television program showed a puppy being abused at a HLS facility. (Those responsible were fired and prosecuted, and properly so. Management had a turn over, and despite repeated attempts to pin further charges of abuse on HLS, to my knowledge, all have proved unfounded.) But that video set HLS apart, and it has been subjected to an unremitting and sometimes violent campaign
to drive it out of business ever since. Activists know that if they can destroy HLS, no animal using industry is safe.
Similarly, all food industries are hated by animal rights activists, but steak and KFC is too popular to drive out of business or get politicians to ban. But foie gras
, a specialty food made from overfeeding ducks and geese before slaughter to fatten their livers, is not a big part of most people's diets and so pressure on liberal politicians can lead to legal bans, as will take effect in CA beginning a few years from now. In San Francisco, liberal Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi (who I know and like from having worked with him during the Nader 2000 Presidential Campaign) wants SF to "commend" restaurants that refuse to serve foie gras. Not that big a deal as these matters go, but San Francisco Chronicle
editorial writer and columnist Caille Millner (who is a colleague of Secondhand Smokette and a family friend) hits the nail on the head about the illogic of the anti-foie gras
craze. From her column
It's an easy issue - say "the geese" (even though nearly all foie gras is made from duck now) "have a tube put down their throats so that they can be force-fed," and people shudder. Most people are prone to anthropomorphize, so they imagine how horrible it would be to have a tube shoved down their own throat (ducks do not have voice boxes or gag reflexes; they breathe through their tongues) and agree that it's a horrible process that must be stopped. San Francisco's leadership was the latest to hop on this bandwagon, passing a "commendation" for local restaurants that remove foie gras from their menus.
Never mind that there are only three foie gras producers in the United States, all small farms that are paragons of humane treatment compared to our country's countless factory farms. "We were the first farm to use a humane auditor," said Rick Bishop, animal welfare officer for Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, N.Y. "If you're a good farmer, you'll do this in a way that doesn't cause any distress to the ducks. We've always fought misinformation by having an open-door policy at our farm. Anyone who wants to see what we're doing is welcome to visit and observe at any step of the process." All three foie gras farms in the United States use open pens for their ducks and have very low mortality rates.
That squares with my research for my upcoming book (out in the fall).
Animal rights activists are trying to destroy the foie gras
industry, not because it is cruel or causes terrible suffering to the birds. They want to destroy it because in the view of the movement, "Meat is murder." Thus, the entire herd is under threat but foie gras
is a straggler, and so it is being specially targeted in the hopes that it will set a precedent for the eventual ban on other meat products which activists want none of us to be able to consume.