Foie Gras

The photo above is of a Moulard duck rescued from the foie gras industry (photo credit Farm Sanctuary)

Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is the unnaturally fattened liver of a duck (or, less commonly, a goose). It is produced by force feeding ducks so that their livers grow from six to ten times the normal size. Images of these birds hanging featherless after slaughter show bulging livers that take up the majority of their lower half.

Ducks used for foie gras are generally all males. The female duck’s liver doesn’t grow as well as the male’s, so it is most profitable to raise only males. Female ducklings are destroyed or sold to duck meat farms overseas. This use of males is a break from what generally happens in animal agriculture, where more often than not male animals have little or no value.

While the practice of force feeding birds has been with us for thousands of years, our modern view of foie gras as a delicacy likely comes from its connection to French cuisine. Because dishes such as foie gras appear on the menus of fancy, expensive restaurants, we collectively come to regard them as desirable.

Growing Public Awareness

Because of the work of animal rights groups in targeting foie gras and publicizing their methods, which include inserting a feeding tube down the bird’s throat, the general public is aware that there is “something bad” about foie gras. A number of countries and jurisdictions have laws against the production, import, and sale of foie gras. New Hampshire has no such laws. In many places foie gras laws and bans face ongoing opposition and sometimes get overturned.

The “Humane Foie Gras” Myth

Defenders of foie gras point to the anatomy of ducks in arguing that the force feeding is not inhumane. They point out that unlike humans ducks do not have a “gag reflex,” and for this reason claim that the birds are not bothered by having a tube inserted down their throat. The second defense is that the birds are predisposed to “gorge” as normal pre-migration behavior. Yet an undercover investigation carried out at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a self-proclaimed “humane foie gras” operation in Ferndale, New York, revealed injured and dead birds, as well as workers talking about the number of birds who die during force feeding.

“Sometimes the duck doesn’t get up, and it dies”

A Hudson Valley Foie Gras worker explains, while demonstrating the force feeding process to a new employee
Oversized livers push against nearby organs, including the lungs, which can make it difficult for a bird to breathe. Arguments about whether or not the ducks suffer and to what extent miss the point, as summed up by Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the United States when he argued in favor of the California foie gras ban:

“Is a soft rubber tube better than a hard tube? Maybe, but you are missing the point. You are still forcing them to eat more than they would ever eat voluntarily and inducing a state of disease.”

Paul Shapiro, Humane Society of the U.S.

New Hampshire Restaurants Serving Foie Gras

Various New Hampshire restaurants have served foie gras at one time or another. As of June 2022, New Hampshire Animal Rights League is aware of three restaurants that serve foie gras:

Note: At The Foundry in Manchester, foie gras is no longer on the menu. When asked about the decision, the General Manager wrote, “We decided not to have it on the menu anymore due to non sale and too much waste on product.”

What You Can Do

  • Avoid restaurants that serve foie gras. Consider contacting the restaurant and expressing your concern.
  • Educate friends and family about the cruelty behind foie gras.

Cows raised for Food

Beef has been getting a lot of bad press lately, and for good reason. Eating beef has been shown to have a negative effect on our health, the environment, and, of course, the animals. Nevertheless, for many beef is still the habitual main course for the big weekend meal, dinner out, and special occasions.

Despite our devotion to beef, consider that our taste for it might be largely learned. Parents often have to urge young children to “eat your meat,” or use catsup or some other sweet sauce to make it appealing. As adults, if we eat beef it’s likely out of habit, perhaps because it was always just there — at the dinner table, in the cafeteria line, on the restaurant menu, and so on. Eating beef might feel like a “personal choice,” but chances are the choice was made for us, long ago.

“But I Eat Only Grass-Fed Beef”

As the truth about what happens to animals raised for food is increasingly reaching the general public, growing numbers of people are looking for meat that they can buy with a clear conscience.

Beef producers have responded to this demand with labels such as “grass fed,” “local,” and “humanely raised.” Such marketing works because consumers want to trust these labels. But even on the best of farms, there are inherent cruelties involved in raising animals for food, including:

  • Shortened lives — Whether grass-fed or factory-farmed, cows raised for food live only about one-eighth of their natural life span. Beef cows are typically slaughtered between two and three years old. “After about 30 months of age, you will start running into tenderness problems…” one one beef producer wrote.

  • Painful procedures — In addition to living very short lives, cows raised for food may be subjected to painful procedures, such as castration and horn removal without anesthesia. Many of the cruelties animals endure on farms are legal because they are “standard agricultural practices.” These methods save time and money, and for that reason standard agricultural practices are widely used, on big and small farms alike. Pain management is suggested but not required.

  • Potential neglect — Even on small local farms, good care, including providing veterinary care to sick or injured animals, is not guaranteed. For example, sometimes cows aren’t given enough to eat, or nothing is done to protect them from swarming flies, a local beef producer told us. Hay and fly control are expensive. If cash is tight, a farmer may cut corners.

Transport and Slaughter

An inescapable fact of eating animals is that they have to be killed. When that day comes, a local beef producer has only a handful of options in and around New Hampshire. This means that beef producers are often pulling a trailer of animals for hours to get to the slaughterhouse. (Anyone selling meat to the public must take the animals to a slaughterhouse; backyard slaughter is allowed only if the flesh is for one’s own household or will be given away.)

Once at the slaughterhouse, by law the animals are supposed to be killed as quickly and painlessly as possible. But our humane slaughter laws represent a goal, not a guarantee. Even with inspectors on site, mistakes are inevitable. Knives miss the mark. Stun guns don’t work on the first try. Shackled animals come loose and fall to the ground.

Make enough mistakes and the USDA will issue a citation and perhaps even shut a slaughterhouse down for a period, but that’s of no use to the animal who was deprived of the one mercy promised by law: a quick and painless death.

“It’s a common thing that happens in other slaughterhouses. I’d like to see the slaughterhouse that doesn’t have this problem.”

Owner, Blood Farm Slaughterhouse

 

Small-scale New England slaughterhouses may make fewer mistakes than larger facilities, but errors are inevitable.

When Blood Farm in West Groton, MA was shut down for violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act as a result of an employee improperly stunning an animal on the killing floor for the third time,  the owner of the establishment was quoted in the Lowell Sun as saying:

Living with Wild Neighbors

Walk down the “pest” control aisle of the average home and garden store, and you may get the impression that we are at war with every other living creature (except, of course, our pets). This anthropocentric perspective — the idea that humans are at the center of the world — can be so ingrained that many don’t think to question it.

The New Hampshire Animal Rights League encourages a different perspective, one where humans are part of not apart from the rest of the living world, and where the goal is peaceful co-existence.

Humane Mouse Control

In New Hampshire, mice getting into the home is a common problem, especially in the fall when these animals are looking for a warm place to spend the winter. Unfortunately, most home and garden stores are in the business of selling inhumane, temporary solutions for dealing with mice.

glue trap
Of the many lethal traps and poisons for sale, glue traps may well be the cruelest. Glue traps kill indiscriminately, and animals stuck to them die slowly of hunger, dehydration, and exhaustion.
mouse poison

Poison is also inhumane, as well as irresponsible. Poison bait blocks are formulated to contain only a low dose of poison, so that if a child or pet accidentally ingests the product, it will not be fatal. But for the mouse, the low dose means a slow death, often spanning days. In their sluggish state, poisoned mice are easy targets for predators, including foxes, eagles, and other protected birds, who often become sick and die from consuming poisoned mice.

Compassionate and responsible approaches for dealing with mice include exclusion, natural odor repellents, and ultrasonic devices. If uninvited guests still manage to get in, you can use a live mouse trap to catch and relocate them outside in a brushy or wooded area.

The Smart Mouse Trap

Get Your Free Live Mouse Trap

Our favorite live mouse trap is the Smart Mouse Trap, because of its effective and thoughtful design. We like it so much that we are offering free samples while supplies last. One trap per household, please.

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About The smart Mouse Trap

A special feature of the Smart Mouse Trap is its time-delay release mechanism, which involves inserting a cracker into a slot. When the inner door is removed, the cracker becomes a second door that the mouse will chew through to exit the trap. The delay while the mouse chews protects you from contact with the mouse, and also allows the mouse to escape without panic.

“I have Smart-Trapped 53 mice and released them, humanely...”

Smart Mouse Trap Customer

“Your Smart Mouse Trap is a beautiful expression of humaneness. Once caught, the mice can be released in the woods, to be free and in peace.”

Smart Mouse Trap Customer

Video of Smart Mouse Trap in action posted on YouTube. (The video does not demonstrate the time-delay release feature.)

Helane Shields

HELANE SHIELDS WILDLIFE FUND

Helane Shields was a longtime member of the New Hampshire Animal Rights League and a passionate animal advocate.

Her legacy included a generous gift to NHARL, which we used to establish the Helane Shields Wildlife Fund in her honor.

The fund will be used to further our efforts to protect the wild animals of New Hampshire that Helane so loved, including beavers.

According to her husband, Charles, there’s a beaver pond not far from their home, and in winter Helane enjoyed seeing the steam from the beavers’ breath rising from their lodge.

Post Your Property for “No Hunting”

You might be surprised to learn that by default privately owned land in New Hampshire is open to hunting. Unless you explicitly prohibit hunting by “posting your property,” hunters are free to come on your land and shoot whatever wild animal is in season.

What’s more, hunters are even allowed to set up tree stands (such as the one pictured above) on your property if you don’t put up “No Hunting” signs.

When a property changes hands, hunters may not take note. There are stories of new owners being surprised by hunters who had permission from prior owners.

Prohibiting hunting on your land protects wildlife from some of the cruelest forms of hunting, which include hounding and bow hunting. (Some forms of hunting, such as baiting and trapping, require the owner’s written permission.)

Free “No Hunting” Signs

NHARL offers free “No Hunting” signs for those interested in posting their property.

Posting your land against hunting protects wild animals from human predators, leaving so-called “game” animals to nature’s true carnivores.

Note: Our free “No Hunting” sign program is intended for New Hampshire properties, but we do provide signs for land in adjacent states in some cases. (To protect property in Maine, contact the Maine Friends of Animals.)

When to Post Your Property

September 1 marks the start of a wide-scale assault on New Hampshire’s wild animals by human predators who have every advantage over their prey. If you have not already posted your property, summer (May 31 through August 31) is a good time to do it.

How to Post Your Property

There is an old law on the books causing confusion about how to legally post property in New Hampshire. That law, RSA 635:4, which has not been updated since 1977, states that the words describing the prohibited activity (such as “No Hunting”) must be no less than 2 inches high. As illustrated in the photo above of a typical no trespassing sign, only the word “Posted” is at least 2 inches high.

We are working to get the wording of RSA 635:4 fixed. In the meantime, RSA 635:2, updated in 2020, supersedes the older law:

According to state law RSA 635:2, “secured premises” means any place which is posted in a manner prescribed by law or in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, or which is fenced or otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude intruders.

Some parts of the older law (635:4) should still be followed:

A person may post his land to prohibit criminal trespass and physical activities by posting signs of durable material with any words describing the physical activity prohibited... The signs shall be no further than 100 yards apart on all sides of the property and shall also be posted at gates, bars and all commonly used entrances.

Be Safe — Wear Orange!

When you head out to post your property, make yourself visible to hunters by wearing a blaze orange vest, hat, or jacket. The more orange, the better. And don’t forget a vest for your dog.

Tips

  • Put up “No Hunting” signs no matter how small your property is.
  • Staple signs every 300 feet and at gates and entrances.
  • Be sure to put your name and address on the sign using a permanent black marker.
  • NHARL offers free “No Hunting” signs. More durable signs can be purchased online.

Fur and Trapping

The New Hampshire Animal Rights League believes that wild animals have a right to an environment in which to live, breed, and raise their young, free from harassment by humans.

Fur and Trapping

Perhaps hundreds of years ago, killing an animal for its fur could be justified if the alternative were freezing to death. Yet even in the days of the North American frontiersmen, the fur trade was not driven solely by necessity. Animals such as the beaver were trapped to near extinction in meeting demand for fashionable fur items. Today we have many options for keeping our bodies warm that don’t require taking the lives of animals.

Fur

Whether it comes from animals trapped in the wild or raised on a fur farm, every fur coat, fur accessory, or piece of fur trim causes tremendous suffering and needlessly takes lives.

At Discover WILD NH Day, an annual  “family-friendly” event hosted by the NH Fish and Game Department, New Hampshire trappers display furs from animals that they killed.

Children line up to touch the soft fur of dead foxes, minks, skunks, and all the other animals that trappers, who comprise a tiny sliver of New Hampshire’s population, are allowed to torture and kill, often without limit.  

For many years, NHARL has held demonstrations outside the event to educate the public about the inherent cruelty of trapping.

More recently, we have gone inside the event, becoming exhibitors, and presenting information about helping, rather than harming, wildlife.  

The leg-hold trap is probably the most cruel device ever invented by man and is a direct cause of inexcusable destruction and waste of our wildlife.

Dick Randall, former federal trapper, addressing Congress in 1975

Andrew’s Legacy

In 2012, a dog named Andrew was killed by an illegally set body-crushing conibear trap.

Out for a walk with his guardian on a public trail in Auburn, NH, Andrew caught the scent of the baited trap and went to investigate. Next came a popping sound, followed by a yelp, as the trap slammed shut on Andrew’s neck.

Screaming, his guardian tried desperately to free him, but conibear traps are purposefully designed to be extremely difficult to open. In the end, all she could do was watch helplessly as her beloved companion suffered and died in front of her.

The trapper responsible for Andrew’s death, George Klardie, was charged with three counts of violating NH Fish and Game trapping rules and fined a total of $248.

In 2013, the New Hampshire Animal Rights League worked alongside other animal protection groups to get these body-crushing traps banished from New Hampshire’s landscape. The legislation, known as “Andrew’s Law,” did not pass, but the tragic death of this dog brought public attention to the issue.

While Andrew’s death was witnessed by his human companion and widely mourned, countless wild animals routinely endure the same horrible death in these traps.

NHARL board member Julia Sinclair gives testimony for Andrew’s Bill (HB 1579) in Representative’s Hall

Fur Farming

Fur is no longer primarily obtained by trapping animals in the wild. Today 80% of the fur comes from fur farming operations.

On these farms, rabbits, foxes, mink, and other wild animals spend their entire lives in cramped cages, deprived of the ability to engage in natural behaviors. Confinement drives them to pace relentlessly, tremble, and self-mutilate.

The day that the cage door finally opens is the day they are killed. The finale to a life of utter misery is an excruciating death, accomplished in one of several ways devised not to damage their fur. Preferred methods include gassing, poisoning, and anal/genital electrocution.

At least one fur farm has operated in New Hampshire, Gauthier Fur Farm in Lyndeborough, but reports indicate it has since closed. 

Hope for a Fur-Free Future

It’s been a long time coming — and too late for many animals — but 2019 brought an unprecedented shift in public attitude about fur. As consumers learned about the horrors of the fur industry, luxury brands, fashion houses, and department stores took note and began phasing out fur.

In 2019, Macy’s announced that they would stop the sale of fur and close their fur vaults by the end of 2020. This decision was celebrated by NHARL, who for many years held anti-fur demonstrations outside the Mall of New Hampshire, one of Macy’s locations.

“Nuisance” Animals

Visit the web site of one of New Hampshire’s many “pest” control companies, and you may get the impression that we are at war with every other living creature — except, of course, our pets.

Pest control web sites tend to include fear-provoking descriptions of generally harmless animals accompanied by photos of them baring their teeth or otherwise looking threatening. In truth, these animals are likely petrified. Looking fierce is their best defense against a much larger would-be attacker.

Scary animal images promote the “us vs. them” mentality that helps sell pest control services and products to consumers.

Sometimes people decide that there are “too many” of a particular animal. Perhaps it’s too many deer eating their ornamental plantings or too many Canada geese on the golf course. A decision is made to fix the problem by “culling” the population. Culling is the organized, systematic elimination of unwanted birds or other wildlife.

Fortunately, many people oppose the organized killing of animals when it’s done simply because some people consider them a nuisance. NH Animal Rights League has joined with others in standing up against many attempts to cull geese, deer, and other animals.

See our Living with Wild Neighbors page for tips on how to co-exist with wildlife.

Hunted Animals

When it comes to hunting animals, some methods are more intolerable than others. Most people don’t even know about these shameful practices, because they happen deep in the wilderness, far from public view.

Buy every now and then some deplorable act makes the news — such as the shooting of Cecil the lion — and the public gets a glimpse at the largely hidden world of hunting.

Trophy Hunting

Since its inception in 2016, NHARL has participated in the Worldwide Rally Against Trophy Hunting (WRATH), holding demonstrations in Concord.

Unfair Hunting Methods

Hunting in New Hampshire is steadily moving away from fair chase as quicker, easier methods — such as bait, lures, and calling devices — grow in popularity.

Bear Baiting

In New Hampshire, it is legal to hunt bears using bait, a practice prohibited in all but a handful of states.

Bear baiting is the use of food or other enticement to lure bears to a site where hunters wait to kill them. Junk food is a popular bait, but commercial “bear attractants” also exist. One New Hampshire hunting store reached out to customers to promote its large inventory of bear bait, which included tubs of cake frosting and 55-gallon drums of caramel sauce.

Most of the bears hunted in New Hampshire are killed over bait. During the 2020 hunting season, 64% of the bears killed by hunters were killed over bait.

An Inconsistent Message — At the same time that the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department permits bear baiting, they regularly issue public notices urging residents and tourists to eliminate bear attractants, by securing garbage, removing bird feeders, and so on.

Bear Hounding

Another repugnant form of hunting that is legal in New Hampshire is bear hounding. Hounding involves hunters using packs of dogs to pursue bears until the exhausted animals either seek refuge in a tree (where they are shot) or turn to fight the hounds. Hounding often results in both bears and dogs being injured or killed.

Although less popular than bear baiting (where all you need is a drum of caramel sauce, apparently), bear hounding is nonetheless on the rise in New Hampshire.

Post Your Propety for “No Hunting”

You might be surprised to learn that by default privately owned land in New Hampshire is open to hunting. Unless you explicitly prohibit hunting by “posting your property,” hunters are free to come on your land and shoot whatever wild animal is in season.

Learn how to post your property and get free “No Hunting” signs

Learn More

Backyard Chickens

Backyard chickens have long been a common sight in New Hampshire, and with hobby farming and homesteading growing in popularity, we are seeing even more people seduced by the idea of backyard chickens.

While the New Hampshire Animal Rights League recognizes that the average backyard chicken is almost certainly better off than the average commercial hen, there are a number of problems with keeping chickens for the purpose of eating their eggs.

For starters, “layer” chickens enter the world in bodies that have been selectively bred for maximum egg production. This is most clearly illustrated in the uniform-looking birds crowded into long sheds at the biggest egg production facilities, but it is also true of the coveted Heritage breeds poking around New Hampshire back yards. Both are saddled with bodies that lay 20 to 30 times more eggs than their wild ancestors, who laid a reasonable 10 to 15 per year.

The hen’s hyperactive reproductive system makes her susceptible to a number of different health problems, which can be painful and ultimately fatal. Some common ailments are impactions (eggs getting stuck in oviduct) and osteoporosis.

“The number one killer of laying hens is egg laying.”

Justin Van Kleeck, Triangle Chicken Advocates

Being prey animals, chickens may hide their pain so as not to appear vulnerable. A seemingly “happy, healthy” backyard hen could actually be masking great distress. If she dies, her keeper may say, “She just dropped dead,” without recognizing the likelihood of an undiagnosed chronic condition.

Chicken autopsies (necropsies) performed on birds who seemingly died for no reason have revealed accumulations of impacted eggs in their abdomens that were the size of baseballs.

Another ailment common among egg laying hens is osteoporosis. Laying eggs requires calcium, which is taken from the hen’s body to produce the egg shell. If calcium is not adequately replenished, a hen’s bones can become so fragile that handling her could cause a fracture or break. Once again, there may be no outward sign that the chicken is in pain.

Proper care of chickens includes veterinary care, but when people are paying $5 for a chick, how likely are they to spend money on medical care?

Life Before the Backyard

Chicks purchased at farm supply stores or from mail-order poultry suppliers almost certainly come from large hatcheries where chicks are mass produced assembly-line style. Wild chickens have strong family bonds, with both mother and father helping to raise young, but chicks born in hatcheries never know their parents, and their parents never know them.

When hatchery chicks emerge from their shells (if they are able, as there is no mother to assist) and instinctively seek the warmth and protection of a mother, they instead find themselves surrounded by a sea of other bereft chicks.

For the males, who are not wanted because they don’t lay eggs, their experience of this earth likely consists of a few lonely hours before they are ground up, gassed, or tossed into garbage bags to suffocate (the latter method is discouraged by the American Veterinary Medical Association but is not illegal).

As mentioned, chicks can be ordered online to be shipped through the U.S. Postal Service when they are just a few days old. Many chicks die during the journey, but such losses are expected and factored in. Their lives are of negligible value to the producers. Adding males to the box as “filler chicks” to take up extra space and keep the females warm is an accepted industry practice.

“We have people ship chicks as gifts to children because they want their nieces or nephews to grow up with birds and will ship them across the country… There’s nothing better than seeing how happy baby chicks make people.”

Iowa-based hatchery quoted in CountryLiving magazine

"Sexing Errors"

 

Only female chickens have value in the egg industry, but male and female chicks are difficult to tell apart. Therefore, a certain number of “sexing errors” are expected at the hatchery (error rates may be as high as 10-15%). Males mislabeled as females avoid being destroyed, but since they will grow into roosters their chances for a happy future are not good.

The main objection to roosters (aside from their not laying eggs) is the crowing. Many cities, towns, and neighborhoods that allow chicken keeping specifically prohibit roosters for this reason (even though barking dogs likely generate far more noise). Roosters may also be considered a “nuisance” for doing what nature intended — trying to protect the females and guard the eggs.

For these reasons, roosters are routinely killed, abandoned, or passed off to animal sanctuaries, which are reportedly inundated with such requests.   

Unsafe Housing

Another concern with backyard chickens is that they often have inadequate shelter to protect them from predators. The average chicken tractor or coop cannot guarantee safety. Coyotes and bears can easily tear through chicken wire, and raccoons have the dexterity to open latches. Rather than providing protection, the coop may actually be a death trap, as the chickens have no way to escape. Wild chickens have the option of flying up into a tree to flee predators.

Backyard chicken keepers may come to accept these deaths as just part of having chickens. One chicken keeper reported using “spent hens” (older hens whose egg production has declined) to test the impenetrability of a new pen before moving the rest of the flock in. She lost a few of these older hens during the test period, but their lives held no value for her.

What to Do If You Have Chickens

  • Don’t eat eggs, including eggs from your own chickens. Although it may seem harmless to eat the eggs of a well cared for chicken, doing so reinforces the idea that eggs are an appropriate food for humans. Until eggs are no longer considered food, profit-driven people will find ways to produce them as cheaply as possible, at great cost to the hens.

  • Help protect your hens from nutrient deficiencies by feeding their eggs back to them. This may seem weird, but it is normal behavior in nature and can benefit her greatly.

  • Seek regular veterinary care for your chickens, and ask your veterinarian about options for reproductive relief.

What You Can Do to Help

  • Educate friends and family about the problems with eating eggs, even those from backyard chickens.

  • Next time someone points out their “happy” backyard hens, ask where their brothers are to start a conversation.

Eggs

New Hampshire is home to egg distributor Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs. Pete & Gerry’s buys eggs from 130 farms in 12 states and sells nationwide.

Pete & Gerry’s also sells eggs under the Nellie’s Free Range Eggs label, which was the target of a widely publicized exposé and consequent lawsuit brought by consumers who were duped by pictures of hens in open green fields.

Video footage from a Nellie’s Free Range Eggs supplier

“But I only eat cage-free eggs” — As the video above demonstrates, the “cage-free” label means very little when it comes to knowing how the chickens are treated.

Also consider that the vast majority of eggs consumed in the United States come from large-scale factory farms, so unless you avoid eggs altogether, you are almost certainly consuming eggs from industrial operations — if not directly, in baked goods, at restaurants, or in store-bought prepared meals.

Tip: To quickly determine if a packaged food contains eggs, check the allergens statement on the Nutrition Facts label.