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Originally published June 11, 2013 at 7:05 PM | Page modified June 12, 2013 at 11:19 AM

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Animal-rights group targets Amazon over foie gras

Mercy for Animals wants Amazon to stop selling foie gras, calling its means of production inherently cruel.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Mercy for Animals, an activist group known for its undercover videos of alleged animal abuse by suppliers to some of the world’s largest retailers, now is going after Amazon.com.

The nonprofit wants Seattle-based Amazon to stop selling foie gras and has created a website, AmazonCruelty.com, to generate public outrage via social media.

The site features a three-minute video that claims to show duck torture by New York producer Hudson Valley Foie Gras, whose products are sold on Amazon.

The video, recorded with a handheld camera by a Mercy for Animals investigator, will be unveiled Wednesday at a news conference in downtown Seattle.

The animal-rights group argues that force-feeding ducks to produce foie gras is inherently cruel, and it uses brutal and disturbing images to convey that message.

As described by Matt Rice, the group’s investigations director, the video shows “workers grabbing ducks by their wings and necks, violently shoving a metal pipe down their throats and force-feeding them three times a day to produce a diseased, fatty liver.”

A petition on the activist site says that unlike Amazon, big-name store chains including Costco, Safeway and Target refuse to sell foie gras, and the practice of force-feeding ducks to enlarge their livers is banned in California.

The petition also notes that Amazon in the past has moved to ban the sale of whale meat, shark-fin soup and animal-fighting videos.

An Amazon spokeswoman did not return an email or phone call seeking comment Tuesday. Hudson Valley Foie Gras, believed to be the nation’s largest foie-gras producer, also could not be reached for comment.

Rice said his group chose Amazon as its target because it’s the largest Internet retailer and a recognizable source of foie gras.

Laurel Pine, who sells foie gras from Hudson Valley as a third-party merchant on Amazon, defended the industry’s practices and questioned the credibility of Mercy for Animals, suggesting its video may not have been taken in the U.S.

Pine, of Reno, Nev., sells foie gras on Amazon and her own website under the name Mirepoix USA. She estimates Amazon accounts for 25 percent of her business and hopes the e-tailer won’t do as the activist group wants.

“If they’re successful in influencing Amazon to stop selling foie gras, it will impact my small business considerably,” she said. “I don’t believe there’s any valid rationale to it. Foie gras is a wholesome product approved by the federal government.”

Mercy for Animals, based in Los Angeles, succeeded two years ago in getting Costco to stop carrying meat from one of the country’s largest pork producers after it released video of piglets thrown across large distances.

In what appears to be another response to the group’s tactics, lawmakers in some states have tried for several years to make it illegal to take undercover videos and pictures at factory farms.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com. On Twitter: @amyemartinez

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