Dictating the Foie Gras Debate

Josh, over at The Food Section has an interesting post about the Humane Society of the United States pursuing a campaign against foie gras production, and using the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureau to meet their political agenda.

From the article:

NAD reviewed D’Artagnan’s “Internet advertising” (essentially, the D’Artagnan website) following a challenge made by HSUS over two “express claims” about its foie gras: (1) “The liver is not diseased, simply enlarged,” and (2) “Animals are hand-raised with tender care under the strictest of animal care standards.” The Humane Society argued that these claims implied a series of messages it deems false, namely that artisan duck foie gras is “not produced by force feeding, “produced by healthy animals,” and”produced humanely.”

Following a review of evidence submitted by both sides, NAD concluded that D’Artagnan had not adequately substantiated the first claim about the health of the duck liver. It also found that the second claim about how the ducks are cared for “suggests a level of care and oversight that is not supported by the evidence provided by the advertiser and is inconsistent with the evidence in the record.”

How interesting and convenient is it that an advertising council can determine what is meant by “raised humanely” or what constitutes a “healthy duck liver”? I wonder how many philosophers, biologists, and yes even farmers are on the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureau that allowed them to come to the conclusion that D’Artagnan produces their foie gras inhumanely, and that they’re selling unhealthy livers to the public at large.

My guess? Zero.

And for the record, when it comes to discussing deep issues of ethical importance, top on my list of people I don’t want determining policy are Advertising Councils.

Do you want to know the bit of the article that really frustrates me?

When reached for comment, Lily Hodge, Director of Public Relations at D’Artagnan, said that the company considered appealing the NAD recommendation, but determined that pursuing such an action would be onerous: “We don’t have the lawyers, the time, and the budget to do that,” she said. “We don’t have a battery of lawyers like they do.”

Every time I read that paragraph, I realize how simple it is to force people with slim profit margins to do one’s bidding: Simply get a large institution to legally impose its will upon the smaller business In essence – make it financially nonviable to respond. I realize that this happens all of the time, but it still irks me when it’s done.

I’ll say it before, but it needs repeating – their are only two reasons why Foie gras Producers are being targeted.

1) It’s a food that is mostly consumed by the upper class. So the every day consumer of meat isn’t vested in the outcome of this debate.
2) The producers of the food don’t have the financial resources available to engage in long term legal battles (unlike, say, the cattle industry, which has quite deep pockets).