The "don't tell me what to do, and I won't tell you" compact doesn't apply if one side isn't OK with the premise. And one side obviously isn't.
I'm quite OK with the slippery slope argument, because that's exactly what it is in this case. First foie. What next? Cuy? They're cuddly. Ban the consumption of cuy next. Keep chipping away at the menu until meat is off limits. Don't kid yourself, there is a large, well-funded, single-issue, single-mindset group of fanatics who will work tirelessly to see the day when sausages, milk and braised short ribs are ancient history.
There are plenty of things I don't eat -- Patagonian toothfish, for instance. Any billfish. Any animal raised in the horrific squalor of industrial ranching. If, at the stroke of a dictator's pen, I could ban the consumption of endangered animals, and animals raised in the most inhumane of conditions I would be tempted.
Tempted is the operative word. I do not want, nor would I accept that kind of power. I do my part quietly, by not purchasing things that I find ethically questionable. I don't like something, so I don't buy it. Why can't "the other side" simply do the same?
I don't expect to convince anyone whose view of this matter is fundamentally different from mine (i.e. 'Yes, I have the right to eat what I please, but if my choice is responsible for unnecessary suffering or loss, then I'll pass'), and I don't trot out my views unless I'm directly asked, or there is an open discussion on the matter.
However, in an open discussion, I don't see why someone questioning or opposing the production of foie gras is 'telling someone what to', whereas someone supporting its production is simply 'defending their rights'.
Nor do I get the 'sides' thing: This isn't a simple, two-sided debate between peaceful, tolerant meat eaters and violent, intolerant vegetarians (seriously, re-read the topic, and tell me which perspective is expressed most vehemently and uncompromisingly). An array of perspectives has been presented, most of which are not extreme.
I really don't see the slippery slope thing, even though various 'sides' seem to fear (or hope) that this is the start of one.
Stripped of squishy anthropomorphising and sanctimonious dribble (which hasn't been present in the current discussion), the argument against the production of foie gras is that there is apparently no humane way of producing it.
The same doesn't hold true for producing other meat products.
Cuteness? This doesn't seem to have anything to do with the foie gras issue, unless I've missed something (and given Americans' loss of enthusiasm for rabbit, it seems pretty clear that you don't need an animal rights group to change a population's tastes; sentimentality can do that on its own).
To produce foie gras, ducks and geese must be force-fed; force-feeding is accomplished by inserting a tube in the the birds' throats, to deliver the food.
These the objective points, not speculation.
Since there is no direct way to understand what the experience may be like for the birds raised for foie gras, one can only rely on observation, research, and morbidity/mortality data to hypothesize.
Such observation, even when carried out by groups such as the European Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare
, suggest that the process of force-feeding, at least as it is currently carried out, is somewhere between moderately and severely distressing to the ducks and geese (e.g. the report I mentioned previously, Welfare Aspects of the Production of Foie Gras in Ducks and Geese).
Conclusions based on observation and research do not extend past reasonable speculation.
From this point on, however, any discussion moves into pure speculation ('How
distressing is it for a bird to have a tube inserted into its throat and be routinely fed an amount that is capable of causing intestinal rupture?') and the philosophical ('Should I care whether or not a bird is feeling distressed?'; 'What are the relative values of my right [as a human] to eat what I want and a food species' right to have a reasonably un-distressing existence, if I have any voice in this matter?', etc.)
The speculative questions are probably not answerable, and the philosophical ones are personal. Evidently, at this time, enough Californians are uncomfortable enough with their understanding of foie gras production to wish to oppose it. As someone pointed out upthread, that's democracy.
Given the scale, resources and impact of the of the various meat and poultry lobbies, I just can't find it in me to start sobbing about the impact of animal rights groups, which have been pushing for all sorts of changes (from the perfectly reasonable to the bewilderingly idiotic), and have had relatively little effect.
We both agreed that banning foie gras was easy, for various reasons.
No satisfactory conclusion will ever be reached, unless the objective aspect is kept in sight.
And there is
at least one remaining objective question: If the current process of force-feeding is distressing to the birds, is it possible to develop an approach that give the same results, but is not distressing, or at least only very mildly so?
Has this been seriously investigated? It seems worth the trouble of looking into, and I find it difficult to imagine that even the greatest appreciator of foie gras would object to its being produced under humane conditions!