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Are Ducks Animals or Divinities?

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.

The four came by night, guided by the moonlight and fueled by a zeal for their mission. They crept silently to the padlocked door where the hostages were being held at a farm. The bolt-cutters weren’t strong enough for the new padlocks, so the slimmest of the rescuers, a young women, slid in through the air-conditioning system. She opened the door for the three others.

They entered, looked around, and sighed. What a dilemma! One hundred and fifty victims and only four could be freed. But the rescuers, made of stern stuff, faced the tragic option and chose. Then, flight, and success. Four hostages freed!

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One duck-robber brazenly has his photograph taken for publicity articles on the crime
L.A. Times, September 18, 2003
What am I describing? A special mission of a team of trained forces releasing hostages from some Islamic terrorist holding camp? No, you are reading the description of the “liberation” of four ducks. Yes, four ducks, from the Somona Foie Gras farm where they were being fed for commercial purposes. The team was a cell of self-proclaimed “duck freedom fighters,” and the “mission” makes up part of a recent wave of eco-terrorism sweeping across the country.

To be precise, they didn’t quite save all four. One overstressed canard couldn’t muster strength for the escape in the closed bin, its freedom train, and died several hours after the “rescue” at the vet’s. A rescuer sobbed, and the others consoled her: “At least he died here with people who love him and were trying to save him, and not those butchers.”

We have, then, an ensemble of criminal actions: a break and enter of private property at night; the theft of four animals and death of one; and worse, the threat of more of the same in the future. The activists justify their actions on ecological premises: no human has the right to enclose ducks and “murder” them just to satisfy the human palate with the delicious foie gras.

These activists, so bold that three of the four gave their names to the press, make no promises not to strike again. To the contrary, the terrorists proclaim, destruction is a necessary tactic, and the publicity it generates boosts the cause.

In fact, the goal is to try and inflict the maximum damage to entities violating animal rights. Cattle, pork, sheep, chicken farmers – none are immune today from intimidation, threats and violence from these environmental groups. And if you don’t have farm stock, don’t breathe too easily. Tomorrow they may “liberate” your dog, cat or canary.

The sad irony of this particular situation won’t be lost on my readers, who clearly see the double treatment dealt out generally by the press and public opinion:
• Smiles, lenience and tolerance for the rescuers of animals at duck farms;
• Frowns, harsh sentences and intolerance for the rescuers of human babies at abortion factories.
Still, all and all, it may seem to most just a relatively harmless, ridiculous escapade.

But California foie gras producer Guillermo Gonzalez and his partner-restauranteers Laurent Manique and Didier Jaubert aren’t laughing. In a recent wave of green crime attacks, animal rights activists have sent them threats (“Stop or be stopped!”), glued their car locks, vandalized their homes, and invaded their privacy. On August 15, they vandalized the trio’s new restaurant, Sonoma Saveurs, scheduled to open this Fall and feature foie gras dishes. Damages were estimated at $60,000.

The arrogant activists made Internet postings claiming responsibility for the vandalism. “You’ll see there that they’re quite proud of the things they do,” said Sonoma Police Chief John Gurney.

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An appetizing spread of roast duck, foie gras, and garlic-roasted breast
in earthenware pots are common fare in the Languedoc countryside
Animal rights activists have targeted the foie gras rather than poultry industry because of the supposed inhumane method of force-feeding young ducks for four weeks prior to slaughter. This fattens the livers and provides fois gras, which the activists label the “rich man’s delicacy,” an aim at bristling the common man’s egalitarian leanings.

Yes, foie gras is specialty food here in the United States, with only two producers nationwide. But certainly not in France, where foie gras and its derivative pâtés and terrines are popular dishes for people from all walks of life. Confits of goose or duck are made throughout Languedoc – every family has terrines or special wide-mouthed jars in which a homemade confit is kept, ready for impromptu feast. Farmyards throughout Perigord and Alsace boast small flocks of geese and duck, force-fed by farm wives in the traditional way to provide the treasured foie gras.

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The history of foie-gras goes back to the Egyptians

In fact, before he started his business in the 1980s, Guillermo Gonzalez and his wife, proprietors of Sonoma Foie Gras, traveled to Southern France to learn the art of foie gras production. His birds are free-range [not caged], he has scientific data showing the fowl suffer no stress in feeding, they don’t even run from the feeders.

He can explain the history of foie gras, which goes all the way back to the Egyptians, who noted how tender and tasty the livers were of wild geese who gorge before emigrating. They had the idea to domesticate and induce the natural over-feeding of geese. The Romans were said to force-feed with figs for a special flavor. But it was, of course, Catholic France that made the process an art, and by the 18th century, foie gras was a French cultural culinary tradition.

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Ridiculous protests by animal rights activists call for an end to turle races at Church socials. The Cincinnati Bishop caved in to their demands.  NCR, July 27, 2001
But no explanation is justification for the radical animal rights movements. That’s because the question isn’t really about the method of fattening ducks at all. The fact is animal rights activist oppose all meat production, wild or domesticated. “Meat is murder!” their protest signs and spray-painted graffiti proclaim.

“A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They’re all mammals,” stated Ingrid Newkirk, founder of the Maryland-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). This statement is obviously rooted in a Buddhist philosophy, whereby a kind of god is immanent in all created beings. This explains why the eco-terrorists assume that to kill a rat is the same as to kill a child. Under the cover of ecology, a Gnostic religious bloc is attacking our Catholic cultural traditions.

The PETA website states on its front page, “Animals deserve the most basic rights … Like you, they are capable of suffering and have interests in leading their own lives; therefore, they are not ours to use - for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation, or for any other reason.” Of course, the animal rights movements abhor hunters and fishermen. They want animals out of research labs, circuses and aquariums, even church social events.

Several years ago, for example, pressured by animal rights activists, Bishop Pilarczyk of Cinncinnati weakly succumbed to their campaign and forbade turtle races or the use of any animal at church festivals. Today, however, we are seeing more serious efforts than campaigns to do away with turtle races.

Eco-terrorism: another face of the Green Movement

A wave of violent acts and crimes committed in the name of saving nature has been sweeping the country. The name given it is eco-terrorism; the FBI call it terrorism pure and simple.

Activists in groups such as the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) do not hesitate to resort to property damage, arson and letter bombs, fence cutting and cattle shooting to meet their political-social goals. ALF publishes guidelines that it aims “to inflict economic damage on those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.” ELF rages against “the capitalist death machine.”

These organizations like to claim responsibility (without naming names) on their websites for the dastardly deeds done, such as burning a meat processor plant in Eugene, OR, vandalizing an animal experimentation lab in Orange, CA; liberating 5,000 mink at fur farm in Michigan; exploding pipe bombs at Chiron biotechnology company in Emeryville, CA.; and so on. I only mention a few of the crimes claimed by animal rights activists estimated to total more than $100 million of destruction across the country in six years.

Economic damage. The threat to private property. Elusive criminals almost impossible to identify or arrest because they operate in small cells and blend into society. Ingredients that should be making the animal rights groups an abhorred and disliked plate for the public to swallow. Surprisingly, this is not the case. Animals rights activists tend to garner public sympathy because a lot of people like the idea of protecting animals. We won’t condone the violence, such folk say, but the poor helpless animals have certain rights.

A suburban housewife visits a humane society center, and sees an abused pup. Her heart bleeds with pity, and she joins the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Pets. At school, a teenager is shown a video of a chicken or lamb being slaughtered - not a pretty sight as I know from my farm days – and the youth becomes a vegetarian and an animal rights activist. These actions, based primarily on sentiment, are rooted in a more serious matter – a radical egalitarianism and an implicit Buddhism that clashes frontally with the most elementary Catholic doctrine.

A radical egalitarianism and attack on a fruit of Christian Civilization

There was a time not so distant when every man, simple or erudite, farm or city bred, took it for granted that all the things on earth should be ordained to man as to their center.

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Ducks were created for man. They are not equal to man
Stated simply: God in His goodness and wisdom created all the creatures and things of the universe in an order. At the center of this order, below the angels and above the animals, is man, a rational creature made to His image and likeness. After creating man, God blessed him and commanded him to fill and subdue the earth: “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.”

God thus entrusted creation to the hand of man to reign over it. And man obeyed. He domesticated the animals, and made them his guards and companion. He raised and perfected stock, fish and fowl, and with them created an almost infinite variety of plates and dishes that reflected the spirit of regions and peoples. Without the Toulouse cassoulet, the Alsace foie gras, the Norman andouille, the roasted capon of Upper Gascony, the handsome cheeses of Auvergne, France would not be France, and quoad hoc, Christian Civilization would not be Christian Civilization.

Rubbish, respond the animal rights proponents. The Catholic doctrine of Creation in Genesis is inimical to the health of the earth, and promotes anthropocentricism (man-centered values) at the expense of the nonhuman. Christian Civilization was exploitive and elitist. In effect, Genesis – and God – are wrong.

The doctrine they espouse is that human beings are no different from other animals, with no spiritual and rational nature that makes us distinct and superior. Therefore, human being cannot use other animals for their own selfish purposes.

Activists promoting animal rights think that they really love animals. I don’t agree. I think their action is based more on hatred than love: a hatred for humans and Christian Civilization.

They would raise up animals and lower man in their hatred for the hierarchy God put in the universe. They would dominate the laws and actions of man so that he becomes the servant of the plants and beasts in their hatred for the dominion God gave man over the universe.

According to the catechism of human rights, instead of raising fowl to eat, man must spend his energies providing ducks and geese with one grand protected playground. The ultimate aim of the animal rights movement is much more than just eliminating foie gras, it is to do away with the God Who created ducks - not as divinities, but for the good and service of man.


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