Foie Gras Advertising Deemed Misleading
Originally published in Animal World magazine
In January, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus ruled that certain advertising statements made by Artisan foie gras producer D’Artagnan Inc. about their animal care practices were not supported by the available evidence, and issued a recommendation that they cease and desist making such claims. Because NAD is a self-regulation arm of the advertising industry, compliance with its rulings is voluntary, but D’Artagnan nevertheless agreed to “comply and modify its advertising” even though the company “strongly disagrees with NAD’s decision.”
That was probably the best tack D’Artagnan could take under the circumstances, because NAD’s opinions carry considerable weight with consumers, and animal protection groups would have had a field day with the controversy had the company refused to abide by the verdict. Actually, D’Artagnan would have made an especially easy target given the unbridgeable plausibility chasm between their false claims that they treat ducks humanely and the reality of animal abuse inherent to foie gras production.
The case was brought to NAD’s attention by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), whose complaint focused on two “express claims” on the D’Artagnan Web site: namely that “The liver is not diseased, simply enlarged,” and “Animals are hand-raised with tender care under the strictest of animal care standards.” HSUS further asserted that these statements resulted in “implied claims” that foie gras is produced humanely with healthy animals and without force feeding. After reviewing the evidence presented by both sides — including research studies, veterinarian testimonials, video documentation of common production practices, and consumer survey results — NAD determined D’Artagnan’s claims to be inconsistent with consumer expectations.
The scientific record confirms that force feeding ducks causes “hepatic lipidosis,” a pathological condition in which the liver becomes enlarged by as much as 10 times its normal size. This diseased organ is then harvested to make foie gras, and if the ducks weren’t slaughtered after several weeks of force feeding, they would die from complications of the disease. During their short and painful lives, these birds suffer from obesity so debilitating that they have trouble breathing and can barely walk. Considering the overwhelming evidence against D’Artagnan’s advertising claims, their stated disagreement with NAD’s ruling indicates two equally disturbing possibilities: either they knowingly tried to deceive their customers, or they are in such denial that they actually believe they treat ducks humanely.
Farm Sanctuary has seen the results of foie gras industry violence firsthand, having obtained investigative footage from four of the world’s largest foie gras producers and taken in ducks at our shelters who were rescued from foie gras farms. Our efforts were instrumental in the passage of the law to ban the production and sale of foie gras in California (effective 2012), and more than 1000 restaurants throughout North America have signed our No Foie Gras Pledge. Given our experience and involvement with this issue, Farm Sanctuary applauds NAD’s decision, which, while primarily protecting consumers from fraud, also helps expose a cruel industry’s dark underbelly of lies and cruelty.