Yes. I am an unapologetic fan of foie gras. #sorryimnotsorry
The furor on the interweb over the last few of weeks has been beyond delightful to read and watch. It has been a flurry of avid fans and haters rushing out of their respective corners to continue the fight for and against foie gras. Out of fray this particular blog post via Gawker.com was probably my favorite. (the comments and replies are equally as good). It is a rant from someone who has an extremely strong opinion that apparently needs to be taken as gospel but make no rational sense and thinks that calling everyone an “asshole” will change hearts and minds.
Now if you are going to call me an asshole because I enjoy foie gras that is fine, I hope we can still be friends as a matter of fact. Why? Because everyone is entitled to their opinion. I understand why some folks despise foie gras and everything that goes into its production and consumption. I get it. I don’t think you are wrong and I respect your opinion. The libertarian in me just wants to be able to make up my own mind and decide whether I am going to enjoy foie gras or not.
There have been, and always will be, producers in every industry that do things “the wrong way” or inhumanely but with increasing scrutiny and a new focus on sustainability that has been sweeping many industries there are also going to be producers who are doing things “the right way.” There are three producers in the US that were making foie gras (yes there are only 3 producers that produce roughly 1.4% of the worlds foie gras1), Hudson Valley, La Belle, and Sonoma; though Sonoma ceased production with the ban in California that has since been repealed. Hudson Valley has been open about their practices for quite some time and Sonoma was really no different until it was shut down. The La Belle was the only one I hadn’t heard of and didn’t know a bunch about but I did find this interesting write up on them.
It seems that the biggest issue in the production of foie gras has been that the animals are traditionally force-fed so that their livers swell. The Humane Society of the US, Animal Legal Defense Fund and of course PETA have all come out with the following complaints: livers swollen to many times their normal size, impaired liver function, expansion of the abdomen making it difficult for birds to walk, death if the force feeding is continued, and scarring of the esophagus. We’ve all seen the horrid photos. We get it. There has been an ugly side to foie gras production. This has resulted in producers, like Hudson Valley for example, that take more of a “new wave” approach to the production of foie gras. In 2005 a writer from The New York Times by the name of Lawrence Downes which I highly recommend reading. In a visit to Hudson Valley he personally observed the following:
“I visited Hudson Valley Foie Gras last week, seeing gavage for the first time. I saw no pain or panic in Mr. Yanay’s ducks, no quacking or frenzied flapping in the cool, dimly lighted open pens where a young woman with a gavage funnel did her work. The birds submitted matter-of-factly to a 15-inch tube inserted down the throat for about three seconds, delivering about a cup of corn pellets. The practice, done three times a day for a month, followed by slaughter, seemed neither particularly gentle nor particularly rough. It was unnerving to see the tube going down, and late-stage ducks waddling bulkily in their pens, but no more so than watching the epic gorging at the all-you-can-eat buffet at Shoney’s, where morbid obesity is achieved voluntarily, with knife and fork2.”
– Lawrence Downes
There is also another great breakdown that was done by Eater SF that was published in early January to give some extra insight and opinions. It also includes this great quote that sums up my feeling on the matter all too well:
“I really wish they spent time fighting against restaurants (and there are many here – and everywhere) that buy conventionally raised factory farmed product. When they fight against businesses like mine, they are really fighting against people who already agree with them in so many ways. There truly are bigger, better fights to be had – IBP, Monsanto – those are the people who are ruining it all. Not some people funnel-feeding geese3.”
– Naomi Pomeroy
If any of the animal rights groups considered the now repealed bans in Illinois and California a victory they were hollow at best. With so many other large factory farms and companies on the playing field how can they think that trying to take down three small farms that supply a small amount of a very niche product is worth their time? These three producers in the US are easy targets and it is as simple as that. If animal rights groups really wanted to make a difference there are much bigger issues at play that are worth tackling.
Did I expect this post to change your heart and mind if you are against the production of foie gras? God no. If you don’t like foie gras because you believe it is inhumane more power to you, don’t buy it or support restaurants that provide it. Choose where you spend your dollars because that is what matters on the bottom line. I would also recommend doing some research into some of the more important issues that are present in the world’s food supply. I highly recommend the documentaries Food Inc. and The World According to Monsanto for starters.
1 – “Foie Gras.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.
2 – Downes, Lawrence. “Face to Face With the Foie Gras Problem.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 June 2005. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.
3 – Dixler, Hillary. “The Decade-Long Foie Gras Fight, Explained.” Eater. N.p., 09 Jan. 2015. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.