Being cruel to animals is getting increasingly harder, and that's a good thing.
The California ban on foi gras takes effect tomorrow. To produce the fatted liver of fowl the animal is force-fed, as shown in the photograph. The animal is unable to process the excess fatty food and it ends up in the enlarged liver. In a human we might call this a diseased liver; in a goose we call it a delicacy.
Anthropomorphism is always a problem: Do geese or ducks really care that they are being force-fed? Geese and ducks do not have a gag reflex, and perhaps they secretly love the fat—most humans instinctively do.
But my intuition (no science backing it) is that such force feeding is indeed cruelty. There were slaveholders who argued that slaves really couldn't feel pain either, but we now know that was self-serving bunk.
I think we search mightily to justify the status quo—to continue practices that are medieval in their understanding of our relationship to others and the natural world.
The treatment of baby cows (calves) to produce veal is at times not better. In the worst cases, soon after birth they are crammed into crates so that they can't move or develop ligaments. This practice may be ending in the U.S. by 2017, on the voluntary action taken by the American Veal Association. Veal crates are currently banned in 5 U.S. states and in the European Union since 2007.
Of course, California's ban on foi gras will simply create another black market, as in Cuban cigars or Colombian coke. Much better than laws banning these practices would be consumer rejection of such practices.
To quote Dylan, "Yes, how many times can a man turn his head/Pretending he just doesn't see?"