Surveys seem impartial. We assume numbers do not lie. But the Zogby poll about banning foie gras cited in a recent TIME article used biased tactics to show that a majority of Pennsylvania's voters support the banning of the sale of foie gras.
The survey first found that 94 percent people never ate foie gras or had never heard of it. So the vast majority of those surveyed were informed only by what the surveyors told them about foie gras and its production.
The offered definition was grossly biased and slanted toward the agenda of animal rights organizations. The definition and following question were this: "Foie gras is an expensive food item served in upscale restaurants. It is produced by force-feeding ducks and geese large quantities of food causing the animals' livers to swell up to ten times their normal size. A long metal pipe is inserted into the animals' esophagus several times a day. The process can cause the animals' internal organs to rupture. Several European countries and the state of California have outlawed the practice as cruel. Do you agree or disagree that force-feeding geese and ducks to produce foie gras should be banned in Pennsylvania?"
This definition offers only one side of a controversial topic. The question includes a leading statement by pointing out that "The process can cause the animals' internal organs to rupture". This does not happen. In fact, mortality rates in foie gras production are the same or less than commercial chicken operations. Also, waterfowl will gorge themselves in the wild as preparation for migration, causing their livers to swell to many times their usual size, storing excess energy. Additionally, the esophagi of ducks and geese are uniquely suited to swallowing large prey, allowing for the insertion of the feeding tube without causing stress or pain.
Studies by Daniel Guémené, PHD, Director of Research and Senior Scientist at the French National Institute of Agronomic Research, have shown that the techniques used in foie gras production do not cause stress or anxiety to the animals. In addition, his studies have found that the effects of foie gras production are reversible and do not cause disease in the animals.
Another leading tactic is hidden in the final question at which point those surveyed were informed that several European countries and the state of California have banned the product. This is an inappropriate tactic, as many of us, when we are poorly informed on an issue, will simply go along with what we think everyone else is doing.
I would urge those touting statistics to carefully examine the research tactics involved. And unfortunately, because so few know about foie gras, allowing themselves to be tricked into believing it is cruel, this delicacy may be lost to us.