The Foie Gras War: Californians Say Au Revoir to the French Delicacy

By: Michele Wolfson

In eight months, California's bill banning the sale of foie gras will be put into effect. While animal rights activists feel that foie gras is unconscionable, some leading chefs and their patrons are upset with the state's decision. Perhaps you are wondering, what exactly is foie gras? Foie gras (also known as fatty liver) is a food product made from the liver of a goose or a duck that has been specially fattened. Fattening the poultry is typically achieved through force-feeding it corn through a process known as "gavage."

The New York Times reports that for seven hours on Friday night, at the restaurant known as Animal, three chefs presented an eight-course meal that glorified the soon-to-be outlawed delicacy. Many protestors held up signs outside the restaurant as the sold out dinner (that went for $175 a head) continued.  Politically charged animal rights groups contend that the method entails cramming a pipe down a birds' gullet and painfully force-feeding them. Activists showed up on Friday night to picket the dinner, but also recognized that the bill they stand for will ultimately go into effect and that this particular pro-foie gras meal will have no impact on the ban's repeal.

One of the chefs from "Animal" feels that consumers are losing their right to choose what they want to eat because of this ban.  Other outspoken chefs say that the foie gras that they purchase is treated humanely and since it is a fine delicacy, the mistreatment of such a luxury item would be the last thing that they would want to serve.  Farms that produce Foie Gras in the Hudson Valley of New York State say that their gavage process usually occurs about 12 to 18 days before slaughter and only lasts around 2 to 3 seconds. They believe that the process isn't as bad as organizations like PETA claims that it is and when compared to the production of some other meat, the gavage isn't nearly as bad.

Controversial gavage videos are adding fuel to the flame. While some feel that the footage portrays animal cruelty, others argue that the ducks and geese are running up to the tubes to be fed. Foie Gras advocators vocalize that the rich and succulent flavors override the concern for the way these birds are treated. The governmental officials of California, as well as many others world wide completely disagree. Foie gras is also currently banned in several member-nations of the EU, Turkey, and Israel.

What do you think? Should foie gras be outlawed?

Photo: xmatt

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