The Israeli Supreme Court:
of Geese and Ducks Violates the Law
for Animal Rights
11th, 2003. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled today in a detailed decision,
that force-feeding of geese and ducks, as practiced in Israel, is in violation
of the law, and that regulations that allowed this practice are not valid. The
Court granted the industry a period of about a year and a half (until March 2005)
before the ban is enforced.
Israel is one of the world's major
producers of foie gras. The Israeli industry exploits mainly geese.
decision is one of very few decisions of national courts worldwide on the
of animals used in the food industry
decision has resulted from years of investigation and campaigning by animal protection
organizations in Israel and worldwide. In Israel, the campaign was led by Anonymous
for Animal Rights. Activists of Anonymous documented the dreadful cruelty to geese
and ducks all over Israel. Their affidavits -- and the shocking video they showed
in the courtroom -- were essential to the success of this petition. Not less important
is the public atmosphere, supportive to such a decision, which was created through
long and intensive grassroots work. Starting with general ignorance as to the
nature of force-feeding, the Israeli public reached a point where foie gras is
perceived as morally-defective food. A recent survey proved that 69% of Israelis
perceive force-feeding of geese and ducks to be animal-abuse.
No immunity to agricultural practice
majority opinion was written by Justice Ms. Tovah Strasberg-Cohen. "The 'needs
of agriculture' do not always override the interest of animal protection"
Writes Justice Strasberg-Cohen, "Not every suffering caused to the animals
should withdraw when confronting the 'needs of agriculture'. Long-time accepted
agricultural practices are not immune from the application of article 2(a) of
the Animal Protection Act [prohibiting animal abuse]."
Justice Strasberg-Cohen describes the process of force-feeding:
"In the process of force-feeding, the goose is prevented from feeding freely,
and is force-fed several times every day with a high-energy food in a quantity
that greatly exceeds the quantity necessary for his physiological needs. The process,
in which a metal tube is inserted into the goose's throat, through which food
is compressed into his stomach, is violent and harmful. The process causes a degenerative
disease of the goose liver, and its enlargement up to 10 times its original size."
on the balance of interests
Justice Strasberg-Cohen discusses the regulations
which allow this practice and concludes that they contradict the prohibition of
animal abuse in the Animal Protection Act. This is so because existing means to
reduce suffering were excluded from the regulations, and because the suffering
is disproportional when compared to the industry's utility.
she opens a door to future regulations that will significantly reduce the suffering
of the birds, and strictly monitor the industry. However, notes Justice Strasberg-Cohen
elsewhere, at present such practices are not available.
emotions, human dignity
Justice Mr. Eliezer Rivlin agrees in a short poetic
opinion: "As to myself, I have no doubt in my heart that wild creatures as
well as pets have emotions. They are endorsed with soul that experiences the emotions
of joy and sorrow, happiness and grief, love and fear. Some of them nurture special
feelings towards their friend-enemy: man. Not everyone thinks so, but no one denies
that even these creatures feel the pain caused to them by physical harm or by
violent intrusion into their innards. True, whoever wishes so, may find, in the
circumstances of this case, prima-facie justification, to the act of artificial
force-feeding, which is mainly the need for exhaustion of the breeders' earning
sources and the magnification of the gastronomic enjoyment of others; as a paraphrase
on the writings (lob, 5, 7), the justifier may say that human welfare should fly
upwards, even at the cost of trouble to the birds. But this has a price -- and
the price is diminishing human dignity.
"Like my friend
Justice Strasberg-Cohen, I also think that the regulations on force-feeding are
to be invalidated, and the acts of artificial force-feeding, as allowed by the
regulation, to be banned."
The cruel nature of factory
The minority opinion, by Justice Mr. Asher Grunis, is
interesting. He describes the suffering caused to animals in factory farming (putting
special emphasis on enforced molting in hens and the veal industry), using language
that could be taken from an animal rights leaflet. He is concerned of the extensive
consequences that banning force-feeding might have on other industries. However,
he surely wants to see reforms in these industries. As to the force-feeding of
geese and ducks, he describes the current regulations as temporary, and determines
that the current arrangement cannot continue without limits -- because of the
suffering of the birds. He calls for new regulations that will either reduce the
suffering or ban the practice (after a transitional period). However, he would
not join a decision that would close down the whole industry and cut off the livelihood
against force-feeding of ducks and geese is not over. Today's decision of the
Israeli Supreme Court should serve the worldwide campaign to end this cruelty.
However, we already hear of endeavors by the industry to find loop-holes in the
decision. Our next battle may be fought in the Parliament.
finally: legal ban is not enough: As long as consumers are ready to pay for these
enlarged, fatty, diseased livers, there will always be the person or the country
that will commit the cruelty. The campaign to persuade the public to get rid of
foie-gras will continue.
for Animal Rights wishes to thank every person and organization who participated
in this campaign, who wrote letters to Israeli authorities, attended vigils in
front of Israeli Consulates, provided us with information, and gave us moral or
financial support. We will continue to need you in this campaign and in others.
thanks to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, whose
support enabled our public campaign.