IDA Writing Alert: Foie Fight

March 5th, 2007 8:57 pm by Kelly Garbato

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: In Defense of Animals – takeaction [at]
Date: Mar 4, 2007 9:42 PM
Subject: Writing Alert: Foie Fight

The Chicago Reader ran an article about the raging controversy over foie gras in Chicago. Please write a letter to the editor about the suffering ducks and geese endure to produce foie gras in support of their efforts. Send letters to letters [at]

Read “Foie Fight” online.

Foie Fight

Chicago Reader, by Mike Sula
March 2, 2007

Both parties in an animal-rights-related lawsuit live in California, but it’s being decided here, in foie-gras central.

AS THE PUBLIC face of the Animal Protection & Rescue League and a 12-year vegan, attorney Bryan Pease has campaigned in California in favor of nonlethal pest control, protection of seal habitat, a ban on veal, and a ban on foie gras. In January in Chicago he joined the anti-foie gras protests at Bin 36 and Cyrano’s Bistrot, trailed by a French TV crew doing a piece on Chicago’s duck-liver ordinance.

But Pease didn’t come all the way to Chicago just to chant slogans and wave signs in the cold. He’d filed a libel suit against Guillermo Gonzalez, owner of Sonoma Foie Gras, a producer near Stockton, California, and he was here to make an appearance before a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

In late 2003 Pease and two APRL comrades made their way into a Sonoma Foie Gras facility and filmed ducks being force-fed and a rat nosing around the rear ends of a pair of ducks, allegedly nibbling on them (it’s a little hard to tell). The three absconded with the birds and took them to a vet, who determined two had “large flesh wounds . . . evident on the tails” and were in poor health. He recommended one be euthanized.

APRL released the video footage and announced it would be filing an unfair-business-practices lawsuit against Sonoma Foie Gras, which it accused of animal cruelty. But Gonzalez beat them to the punch, suing Pease and his buddies for trespassing and theft and asking that the court stop APRL and another animal-rights group, In Defense of Animals, from publicizing the footage. In Defense of Animals filed an anti-SLAPP “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” motion. These motions, which are allowed in at least 24 states, are intended to stop plaintiffs from intimidating their critics by filing suits that are of dubious merit.

In February 2005, not long after the California legislature banned the production of foie gras in California by 2012, both suits were settled. As part of the settlement Gonzalez had to pay $21,000 to cover the legal fees of In Defense of Animals.

That October Tribune reporter Mark Caro caught up with the controversy and quoted Gonzalez saying, “I personally have never seen a duck bleeding from the rear. . . . I very seriously believe–I’m almost convinced–that this was staged.” He also said, “It’s very easy for someone in the middle of the night to put some chicken wire around the pen, to put some substance in the rear of the duck that may be attractive for a rat to come and nibble.”

Pease waited almost a year, until September 2006, to fire back, suing Gonzalez, though not the Tribune, for libel. But he didn’t file his suit in California. He filed in the Cook County Circuit Court, arguing in his complaint that Gonzalez’s “statements that he has never seen this condition is a deceptive and defamatory attempt to make it appear as though plaintiff was lying about what he witnessed” and asking for $30,000 in damages.

Why file here? I asked Gonzalez’s attorney, Catherine Crisham of Winston & Strawn. Why not in California? She refused to comment–didn’t even give me a chance to ask if she likes duck liver–and referred me to the motion she’d filed in December to dismiss the suit. In it she notes that neither Pease nor Gonzalez has any connection to Illinois (and that Pease failed to deliver the summons directly to Gonzalez).

Pease told me he chose Cook County because “the article was published in Chicago and that’s where the harm occurred and that’s where he intended it to occur. And it’s all part of the Chicago debate over foie gras. So that seemed to be the more appropriate venue than California.”

I asked him whether Gonzalez could simply file his own anti-SLAPP motion.

“He could,” said Pease. “But Illinois doesn?t have an anti-SLAPP statute, so he won’t be able to file that motion in Illinois. You may have just stumbled on another reason why I chose to file in Illinois as opposed to California.”

You can use the following points to help you in your letter or visit for more information.

*Every year nearly 500,000 ducks are confined into warehouses, force-fed with a pipe shoved down their beaks, and slaughtered for their diseased livers.

*Recent investigations of the United States’ only three foie gras farms found gross neglect and cruelty. Witnesses found tens of thousands of ducks confined in filthy, overcrowded confinements and others left to suffer in enclosures so small they could even spread a wing.

*Recent investigations of the United States’ only three foie gras farms found gross neglect and cruelty. Witnesses found tens of thousands of ducks confined in filthy, overcrowded confinements and others left to suffer in enclosures so small they could even spread a wing.

*Ducks are force-fed with a long metal pole repeatedly shoved down their throats. The torture begins when they are just three months old and continues until they are sent to slaughter.

*During the investigations of three U.S. foie gras farms, investigators found birds on the verge of death, covered in their own vomit. Other birds were found dead in their cages. They had suffocated and choked to death from being force-fed.

*Many of the ducks who survive become too sick to walk. Those who survive the feedings suffer from a painful illness that causes their livers to swell to ten times their normal size.

Letters should be less than 200 words. Please do not send attachments. Please remember to include your full name, address, and phone number (for verification purposes–street names and phone numbers will not be published) and not to use any wording in this alert or cross-post it to other lists. Thanks and good luck!

Kristie Phelps
Communications Director

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for In Defense of Animals Action Center.

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with more than 85,000 members and supporters dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals by protecting their rights and welfare. IDA’s efforts include educational events, cruelty investigations, boycotts, grassroots activism, and hands-on rescue through our sanctuaries in Mississippi and Cameroon, Africa.

In Defense of Animals 3010 Kerner Blvd., San Rafael, California 94901 – P: (415) 388-9641 F: (415) 388-0388

email: ida [at]



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One Response to “IDA Writing Alert: Foie Fight”

  1. Alison True Says:

    Thanks for noticing our story. The Reader only publishes letters to the editor that pertain directly to the subject of a story, and in the case of a campaign we’re likely only to publish one or two. The story is blogged here:

    The comments following the post might be a better place to register your opposition to foie gras. Thanks,

    Alison True
    Chicago Reader

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