Animal advocacy group Mercy for Animals on Tuesday released undercover footage showing what it calls cruel behavior at Hudson Valley Foie Gras. The video, which shows bloodied ducks, carcasses and force-feeding, urges Hudson Valley vendor Amazon.com to stop selling the foie gras products.
This is the second time in recent weeks that Hudson Valley, a leading foie gras producer, has found itself under siege. In April, the company's web site was hacked by animal rights activists and personal customer information was leaked online.
Foie gras, a luxury product made with fatty goose or duck livers, has proved a popular target of late for animal activists, who call it cruel. A controversial California ban on the product has only inflamed the issue. (Hudson Valley is one of the groups behind a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban.)
Foie gras is made by force-feeding birds to enlarge their livers. This is achieved by inserting a feeding tube into the animal's throat, which is shown in the Mercy for Animals video. Supporters of foie gras, including Hudson Valley, deny that this causes the animal any pain. Unlike humans, the birds do not have a gag reflex and their throats have a thick lining that prevents injury, claims Hudson Valley in a promotional video.
Hudson Valley's operations manager Marcus Henley takes serious issue with the Mercy for Animals video. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Henley called the footage a "misrepresentation" of the company's operations that provides no context.
"This is very standard piece, where it's just the dead duck pictures," Henley told HuffPost, describing the video. "We have provided our mortality statistics to the press previously. They're about the same as a chicken farm. There's nothing unusual or extreme about what we're doing. When you show a picture of a dead animal, taken out of context, then it's inappropriate."
Henley said that the footage was shot by a former employee who worked at the facility for about a month. He believes there is nothing wrong with the way the ducks are handled in the video.
In the video, the birds, which are apparently distressed, are behaving that way because they're being moved -- a standard procedure that always elicits such a reaction, he said. The housing facility is equipped with appropriate lighting, air-conditioning and air movement, said Henley, who also dismissed the bloodied ducks as anomalies.
"We processed 36,000 ducks while he was here," he said. "If you have 36,000 people, you're going to have a bloody nose in there somewhere."
Henley said Hudson Valley has not taken legal action against the former employee who shot the video, but that it's too early to say if it will in the future. Despite Henley's comments, the state of New York, where Hudson Valley Foie Gras is based, has no so-called ag-gag laws on the books. Such measures, in place in Iowa, Utah and Missouri and being considered in other states, make it illegal to film the internal operations of large-scale farms.
Watch Mercy for Animal's video below.