Making Foie Gras Okay
This is gross. I still don't see how it's okay to kill a animal just so you can satisfy your "palate". I think this is just another way to justify overlooking the value in an animals natural life.
Hm... I don't know about the operation he outlined as being ok, as the animals are still leading very unnatural, and chosen by humans, lives, but I have watching the TED talk that he linked in the article a while back, and found it fascinating. Basically that guy just creates the conditions in which the geese like to gorge all year round (sounds like he just provides them with all the goodies they like) and they gorge. His only problem was not having yellow foie gras and he started growing something that turned their livers bright yellow that they loved to eat. Obviously, I'd say most activists don't really eat meat, anyway, so the point is moot, but I'd say it could probably be done ethically, but on a very small scale.
Part of the problem I have with this is the author isn't really qualified to make statements about the welfare the animals are experiencing as well as the burden of having a fatty liver.
I mean, it's not like activists are experts in animal behavior/etc either, but I feel like it's more reasonable to be like "that animal is suffering!" and be mistaken than to be someone involved with that industry and say "nah, they're fine!" and be mistaken. In one, you're misrepresenting your business/product and making something seem more ok than it is. In the other, your concern is unfounded, but basically, no harm done.
Someone who's actually an expert in birds would honestly be better at making that assessment, especially because (as anyone who's ever had a bird knows) birds often show very little sign of illness and distress until they're practically dead. Partly it's because we don't really share the same cues (a bird might shift their weight more often, or bob their tail. we wouldn't expect this as distress, and would expect something like lethargy or whining, like we would from a dog), and because of the whole prey species thing (can't let the predators know you're ill). So the whole "well, they're not bleeding from their beaks!"? congratulations: they do not have newcastle disease. but you still don't know anything about their welfare.
They've measured cortisol in cows before to see when they were actually being stressed (and just not showing it), and surprise surprise, there's a lot that's done to cows that's not considered stressful (they're pretty stoic!) but in fact the bloodwork shows they are. I wonder if the same or a similar thing could be done in poultry...
The closest thing I've gotten to an 'expert' opinion is two poultry veterinarians that work at my school, who, putting things briefly, do not think highly of foie gras.
And, as far as the physiology goes... yeah, energy is stored in various places, including the liver. But a liver that pale, enlarged, and rounded is unquestionably pathologic. Excessive fat accumulation is going to interfere with the normal functioning of the liver, and most relevant to welfare, that's going to lead to accumulation of toxins that will affect the brain and be pretty poor for well-being. Cats get fatty liver from time to time (like overweight cats who stop eating for a little bit), and they're not exactly the happiest of creatures, and can end up with neurologic problems. It's funny that the author will clarify that there are physiologic differences between a human and a bird, but then just say that they're "hardier", and go on about the fatty liver... the fatty liver occurs by the same process in all vertebrates. This is the same fatty liver as seen in alcoholics or uncontrolled diabetics. All that's different is how you got there (except that mammals can also get it by overeating).
There's also the assertion that over-feeding occurs in other animal operations. It's true that the food is richer for, for instance, beef cattle versus dairy, but that's partly to do with age dairy cattle will live years and beef cows... will not, so they're juveniles), and getting a higher growth rate. Growth rate, not obesity-achievement-rate. Still, for beef cows they'll often feed them very high-calorie food when they're "finishing" (the month or two before they're slaughtered), but there is a problem with that: it causes issues with the microbial balance in their rumen, and they often end up with both metabolic problems and an infection in their liver. There's actually a hefty percentage (I think it was 25-40%) of slaughtered cows who have liver abscesses because of this, and it is currently a welfare concern for that industry (some places won't do this "finishing ration," though most do). So it's not like "hey, these other guys do it, and no one has a problem with them!" if it's to the point that the beef industry even thinks it's a problem... i think it's a problem.
but hey, the attitude towards animals could be worse. he could have mentioned how the animals were giving permission to be used for food, and that they'd be glad to become something so enjoyable and tasty (for serious, i've seen people write that).
DOUBLE POST TIME
on the other hand, I do like the sort of "rational approach" to these issues (from either side), trying to get past the propaganda of either party, down to the facts. Unfortunately I don't think he really got it right, though. (and of course he's got bias considering his industry.)