Jerusalem, August 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.
The decision is one of very few decisions of national courts worldwide
on the welfare of animals used in the food industry
This 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
The Court’s Decision
No immunity to agricultural practice
The 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
Describing the cruelty
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."
Illegal 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
Finally, 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.
Animal 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
"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 farming described
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 of people.
The campaign 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.
And 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
Anonymous 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.
Special thanks to the World Society for the Protection of Animals,
whose financial support enabled our public campaign.