Animal Rights Advocate Wins Pate Fight
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A health food company must include a proposal to study possible cruelty to animals stemming from production of goose liver pate in materials for an upcoming stockholders meeting, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
The ruling by Judge Oliver Gasch clears the way for stockholders of Iroquois Brands, Ltd. of Greenwich, Conn., to receive information on Peter Lovenheim’s proposal in an April 6 mailing.
Lovenheim, a Rochester, N.Y., lawyer who once worked for the Humane Society, said he did not know when he bought 200 shares of Iroquois stock that the company sold goose liver pate from France.
″I certainly did not want my company promoting cruelty to animals by marketing the end product of animal abuse,″ he said, adding goose often are force-fed so their livers become enlarged and produce more pate.
Lovenheim first proposed a study of the French supplier’s methods for producing pate de foie gras at a 1983 stockholders meeting. The study was to examine whether animal abuse was involved and whether that would hurt Iroquois’ business with health food eaters, many of whom are vegetarians.
The proposal received about 50,000 votes, or slightly more than 5 percent of the total cast - making Lovenheim eligible under federal rules to automatically resubmit the proposal the next year.
But the rules were subsequently changed and Iroquois refused to put the issue in its 1984 annual meeting notice. When the company rejected Lovenheim’s resolution again this year, he went to court.
Iroquois said sales of Edouard Artzner brand canned pate amounted to $79,000 in 1984, out of $141 million in total revenues. It argued the issue was not economically significant.
But Lovenheim maintained his proposal had moral and ethical significance. Ruling in his favor, the judge said economic significance is not the only standard of relevance.
The judge also rejected Iroquois’ arguments that Lovenheim would not be harmed by exclusion of his proposal because he did not expect it to pass; that the company would be harmed because stockholders would think it is involved in mistreating animals; that the lawsuit represented harassment; and that the suit should not have been filed in Washington.
According to Lovenheim, force-feeding usually begins when geese are four months old. On some farms, the bird’s body and wings are put in a metal brace and its neck stretched. A funnel is inserted about a foot down the goose’s throat and a machine pumps up to 400 grams of corn-based mash into its stomach. An elastic band around the goose’s throat prevents regurgitation.
Manual feeders use a funnel and stick to force the mash down the bird’s throat.