What was intended as a well-meaning offer for the culinary elite of Sonoma turned into heartburn for Pets Lifeline animal rescue center, as an auction item featuring a foie gras and duck multi-course dinner sparked a firestorm of Facebook posts and emails from animal rights activists.
Alerted this week by a board member who lives in Marin, the organization Animal Place publicized on its Facebook page the foie gras auction item for Pets Lifeline’s Paws for a Cause fundraiser, to be held Saturday, July 30 in Sonoma. Animal Place, currently based in Grass Valley, is a farm animal sanctuary with a Vacaville rescue, adoption and rehabilitation site, according to executive director Kim Sturla.
“We reach out to humane societies and SPCAs and encourage them to adapt a more animal-friendly diet for their functions,” said Sturla. Though Sturla says they usually contact shelter directors through email or phone calls, she said she was “astounded” by the Pets Lifeline auction item.
“I think all of us were combined baffled and astounded and angry all at once,” said Sturla. “Why in the world would anyone, especially a humane society, auction off foie gras?”
Nancy King, the director of Pets Lifeline here in Sonoma, characterized the auction item as “a dinner from a private donor,” directed at “the foodies that we are in Sonoma.”
The announcement of the auction item, which was forwarded to the Index-Tribune by Animal Place, announced a “real special treat dinner” for 10 at a private home in Kenwood, featuring a menu of “foie gras served 3 ways, an amazing duck multi-course dinner.” It was donated in part by Artisan Foie Gras, also known as Sonoma Foie Gras, which still produces the enriched duck liver delicacy at a ranch in the Central Valley.
In a statement, King said the organization first became concerned about the auction item after hearing concerns from local residents, and removed it from the event offerings. “We feel that the production of foie gras promotes animal cruelty, and therefore removed the item,” the statement read.
King further said, “We don’t advocate animal cruelty, which is why when we saw (the auction item), we said, ‘Oh, foie gras, we can’t do that!’” She said that the item was removed “kind of simultaneously” with the protests the organization received.
Sturla was skeptical that the item was removed prior to her organization’s alert.
On Monday, July 25, Animal Place posted the auction item graphic, with a banner reading, “Celebrating animals by selling animal cruelty?” that urged people to contact Pets Lifeline’s Facebook page, or email Nancy King directly, asking them to remove the auction item and serve an animal-friendly menu at their event.
“I do understand that most people don’t view pigs or cows or chickens with the same amount of concern or compassion as they do dogs and cats, our pet animals,” said Sturla. “I recognize that, but I do challenge it.”
Sturla, who said she formerly ran a humane society and animal control agency, asks that humane societies “try to role-model as much compassion to all animal species as they can.”
“We proactively reach out to humane societies, encourage them to change their functions to vegetarian or vegan, and explain why from an animal welfare perspective, for health, for the environment. I kind of liken it to the lung [cancer] association having ashtrays on their dinner table.” Their website includes what Sturla calls a support services “tool kit” with video at foodforthoughtcampaign.org.