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Felony Charges Dropped against Animal Rescuers after Foie Gras Court Battle
November 30, 2004 New York, USA

Liberty, N.Y.—On November 30, 2004, felony burglary charges were dropped against animal advocates Sarahjane Blum and Ryan Shapiro. Their court battle stemmed from the undercover investigation of the Hudson Valley Foie Gras factory farm and the rescue of injured and suffering ducks from the farm by the animal protection group Blum and Shapiro were each facing up to seven years in prison for their role in the investigation and rescue.

Sarahjane Blum, media spokesperson for, was arrested on April 23, 2004, after screening’s undercover documentary Delicacy of Despair: Behind the Closed Doors of the Foie Gras Industry at New York State’s Syracuse University. Ryan Shapiro, campaigns coordinator for the group, was arraigned on Oct. 19, 2004. Kingston, N.Y.-based attorney Eric Schneider represented both individuals. Blum and Shapiro will complete fifty hours of community service upon a plea to misdemeanor trespass. The pair are prohibited from illegally trespassing on the farm.

The outcome is a victory for the animals, states Blum: “This resolution demonstrates that Hudson Valley Foie Gras is scared of continued exposure of its routine animal cruelty. What’s really criminal is intensively confining ducks and violently force-feeding them for a so-called luxury item.”

At Hudson Valley Foie Gras and other foie gras factory farms, ducks are confined in crowded pens and tiny isolation cages so small they cannot spread their wings or turn around. At Hudson Valley Foie Gras, investigators documented egregious examples of animal cruelty—ducks blinded by disease and infection, ducks languishing in their own blood and vomit, and ducks confined side by side with rotting corpses. Three times a day, the ducks are callously grabbed by workers and have a long metal pipe shoved down their throat through which they are force fed up to a pound of food. Force-fed ducks often suffocate in their own vomit and frequently die from the injuries they sustain when the pipes tear through their esophoguses. This process of force-feeding is specifically intended to cause the disease hepatic lipidosis, which causes the liver to expand up to twelve times its healthy size. The diseased liver is then sold as the delicacy foie gras.

Currently, only two companies in the United States produce foie gras—New York’s Hudson Valley Foie Gras and California’s Sonoma Foie Gras. This year, California has taken steps to shut down its foie gras industry.

Ryan Shapiro comments on the irony, “Even as we faced up to seven years in prison in New York for our role in exposing the suffering that occurs behind the closed doors of foie gras factory farms, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law that will ban the unspeakable cruelty of force-feeding birds on factory farms in his state.” The legislation, S.B. 1520, was signed into law on September 29, 2004. California Senate pro Tem John Burton, who introduced the bill, declared foie gras production “unnecessary and inhumane.”

New York State currently has a similar bill before its legislature (A. 1821/S. 5153), which would make the force-feeding of birds for food a criminal act.

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