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Trotter and Tramonto square off over Foie Gras


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food politics are allowed. It is the basic Democrat-Republican, Communist-Capitalist type of politics that are frowned upon. :smile:

Don't you threaten me with a good time, Doc. :wink:

What bothers me is this Nanny State phenomenon that is slowly creeping into every area of our lives. The last place I want it to intrude is at my dinner table, dammit. It is not enough that I cannot get some of the wonderful wines I've discovered abroad, but now they are trying to take away the *one* indulgence I simply refuse to live without.

It makes me so angry I could swear in ten languages while wielding a large bat. Why an anti-foie gras law, but not an anti-chicken, beef, veal, <insert-food-here> law? Animals are on this earth to feed us. We are the top of the food chain. What part doesn't compute? My fear is that foie gras will only be a starting point.

ARGH!

As an addendum, I will add that, at its roots, this *is* a Communist-Capitalist debate (Nanny State vs. Free Market), so you may want to shut me up now. :smile:

I'm going to start off by saying that I eat foie gras with the best of them, and used to get whole lobes from the outfit in Cali that may be forced out of business there.

But I want to ask. Is your position -- and those of other pro-fg folks -- that government never has a right or an obligation to regulate treatment of animals destined for your dinner plate? That the way an animal is bred, penned, raised, fed and killed is of no concern? That factory farms where pigs live in their own filth and chickens have beaks removed and veal calves are immobilized in a tiny pen are beyond the reach of law or conscience? As long as the animal is destined to be killed, is its treatment up until the moment of slaughter irrelevant?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Some of the aldermen (who will be voting on the ban) had never heard of FG or knew what it was.

Unfortunately, this doesn't surprise me at all :sad::angry:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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But I want to ask.  Is your position -- and those of other pro-fg folks -- that government never has a right or an obligation to regulate treatment of animals destined for your dinner plate?  That the way an animal is bred, penned, raised, fed and killed is of no concern?  That factory farms where pigs live in their own filth and chickens have beaks removed and veal calves are immobilized in a tiny pen are beyond the reach of law or conscience?  As long as the animal is destined to be killed, is its treatment up until the moment of slaughter irrelevant?

You have pretty clearly expressed my own thoughts. While I hate the thought of government intruding into our lives, as it seems to be doing more and more, I also hate the idea of animals suffering needlessly. If I always had the option of purchasing cruelty-free (or some other similar term, let's not get hung up on this particular term) meat, I would do so. This is a really, really difficult subject for me. I am a carnivore. I have given careful thought to being a vegetarian, and have not been able to go there, although I do eat more meatless meals than I used to.

I will confess to not having carefully read this entire thread (yet). So if this question has been asked, please chastise me appropriately. Is it absolutely necessary to enlarge the livers of these animals in order to have foie gras at all? If it's necessary, is there any "gentler" way to do it? Is anybody studying it in a serious way?

I have read comments by those who raise ducks that the ducks don't seem to mind this, and will follow the feeders (with their tubes) around, even after they'd just been fed. That's not consistent with an experience I recently had. In a wild area near my home, a Muscovy duck appeared last spring. He couldn't fly; this breed is raised mainly for its meat, and I assume he got away from his original home. At the end of July, I think he became prey for another animal. But for several months, I fed him twice a day, or was willing to. He didn't always show up. And when he was full, he walked away, even though he hadn't eaten all I'd given him. Given that behavior, I'm having a hard time believing he would have enjoyed being force fed.

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This whole thing keeps making me angrier and angrier.

Some enterprising Alderman should launch an investigation into how the cows that are used to produce the beef in Italian beef sandwiches are treated. I'm sure all of those animals receive nothing but the finest treatment until they are "processed". They probably listen to classical music all day, roam freely through sprawling meadows, and when the end comes they are killed while standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

What, that's not how the animals are treated? Well, ban Italian beef! That's right, no more Al's, no more giant sandwiches dunked in gravy. It's cruel. Why should these cows have to suffer for us?

:Sigh:

Where will this end? I don't know. Unfortunately the whole thing smacks of knee-jerk politics filled with uninformed debates. I wish someone with some muscle would weight in on the pro-fg side of things.

I'm not sure how the eG rules apply, but would some sort of petition started here be out of line. I understand if that's a major violation.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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I will confess to not having carefully read this entire thread (yet).  So if this question has been asked, please chastise me appropriately.  Is it absolutely necessary to enlarge the livers of these animals in order to have foie gras at all?  If it's necessary, is there any "gentler" way to do it?  Is anybody studying it in a serious way?

Currently, the only way to produce foie gras that consumers will be happy with is to force-feed the ducks. There are gentler and less gentle ways to do this, but eventually there's a tube, and the duck is being forced to digest more than it would on its own. People are researching other ways to do this, but so far, nothing substantial has come of it (Waitrose in the UK claimed to have, but they're no longer running that operation and they were very close-mouthed about letting me talk to any chefs who might have used it and normal foie gras.) It seems unlikely that anyone would consider lobotomies an okay alternative (though it does seem to work).

It raises the question that perhaps we could learn to like livers that were merely fattier, rather than inflated ten to twelve times with fat. But that would have to be an adjustment.

I have read comments by those who raise ducks that the ducks don't seem to mind this, and will follow the feeders (with their tubes) around, even after they'd just been fed. 

As a general rule, ducks are less likely to come to the feeder than geese. There's little scientific or anecdotal evidence about ducks coming to the feeder willingly, but there's a sufficient amount of both for geese.

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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It may be difficult to pick the particular point where the thread left not only foie gras in Chicago, but the subject of food as a theme, and became an abstract political discussion, but we did the best we could and removed the last few posts. If necessary we'll remove more, but please let's not argue the abstracts about the role of government in our lives in these forums. Thank you.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I've never enjoyed fois gras for the same reason I've never enjoyed veal: I keep thinking of how it was created. I don't think laws are necessarily the answer, but at the same time, I don't really have much sympathy for people that are up in arms about it. Yeah, it's just a duck/goose, but I believe in karma. Also, anything that raises the hackles of the fois gras and caviar crowd appeals to my rebellious streak, for whatever reason. Maybe those people can spend their fois gras budget on some food for hurricane refugees.

Edited by dankphishin (log)

"yes i'm all lit up again"

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. . . Maybe those people can spend their fois gras budget on some food for hurricane refugees.

Eating foie gras and being charitable are mutually exclusive.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I've never enjoyed fois gras for the same reason I've never enjoyed veal: I keep thinking of how it was created. I don't think laws are necessarily the answer, but at the same time, I don't really have much sympathy for people that are up in arms about it. Yeah, it's just a duck/goose, but I believe in karma. Also, anything that raises the hackles of the fois gras and caviar crowd appeals to my rebellious streak, for whatever reason. Maybe those people can spend their fois gras budget on some food for hurricane refugees.

This post perfectly illustrates the two most common anti-foioe arguments that come up in the foie gras debate:

1. "I've never enjoyed fois gras for the same reason I've never enjoyed veal: I keep thinking of how it was created."

Most people making this kind of statement don't understand enough about how foie gras and veal (etc.) are created to understand whether it is cruel or not. There is a ton of bad information and outright propaganda out there about how both foie gras and veal are created, and I can almost guarantee that whatever you think about how these products are made does not reflect a) current industry practices, and b) an informed understanding of animal physiology/psychology. Many people still think that ducks and geese have their feet nailed to the floor and run screaming when it is time for gavage, etc. This is simply not true.

Most people making this statement also don't have any real understanding about how other animal foods we eat are "made." Take a look inside a factory farm for pigs or chickens some time. Then take a look at a place like Hudson Valley Foie Gras. I can guarantee that anyone who does this will come away thinking the same as I: that if they had to choose, they would rather spend their lives as a Hudson Valley duck than a Tyson chicken. And yet, we seldom hear people saying "I've never enjoyed chicken or pork: I keep thinking of how it was created."

2. "Maybe those people can spend their fois gras budget on some food for hurricane refugees."

In other words, "that foie gras stuff is only for rich people anyway." As Ronnie points out, eating foie gras and being charitable are mutually exclusive. Just because foie gras is considered a luxury ingredient doesn't necessarily mean that we should do away with it or that arguments in support of foie gras aren't valid. The fact is that there are places in the world where eating foie gras is considered part of everyone's diet on an occasional basis, and foie gras is slowly finding its way into the middlebrow consumer's diet as well. Any time you can find a cryovaced foie gras at Costco or Stew Leonard's, it's not the exclusive domain of rich folks any more.

--

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Link to yesterday's NY Times article on this one...

It makes me so angry I could swear in ten languages while wielding a large bat. Why an anti-foie gras law, but not an anti-chicken, beef, veal, <insert-food-here> law? Animals are on this earth to feed us.

And each other, of course. :raz:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Here is a brief quote from the Times:

"Our laws are a reflection of our culture," said Joe Moore, an alderman who has proposed banning the sale of foie gras in the city, as he addressed the council's health committee on Tuesday. "Our culture does not condone the torture of innocent and defenseless creatures. And we as a society believe all God's creatures should be treated humanely."

This statement, in my opinion, reflects the outlook of someone who either a) doesn't know the first thing about how ducks are raised for foie gras, or b) doesn't think humans should be eating other animals.

--

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Here is a brief quote from the Times:
"Our laws are a reflection of our culture," said Joe Moore, an alderman who has proposed banning the sale of foie gras in the city, as he addressed the council's health committee on Tuesday. "Our culture does not condone the torture of innocent and defenseless creatures. And we as a society believe all God's creatures should be treated humanely."

This statement, in my opinion, reflects the outlook of someone who either a) doesn't know the first thing about how ducks are raised for foie gras, or b) doesn't think humans should be eating other animals.

Exactly. At the core of the matter, the political proclomations being made seem to completely ignore the facts about how other "acceptable" animal-based foods are processed. That -- in this meat-loving town -- is the ultimate irony. And that's putting it politely.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Exactly.  At the core of the matter, the political proclomations being made seem to completely ignore the facts about how other "acceptable" animal-based foods are processed.  That -- in this meat-loving town -- is the ultimate irony.  And that's putting it politely.

I think it's worth pointing out explicitly what most of us know implicitly: Politicians and mainstream media outlets aren't going to go after laws that negatively impact their corporate leash holders. As long as your local paper runs ads for sales on pork chops and eggs, you're not going to see them running exposes about the pork and poultry industries. As long as agriculture is funding political campaigns, you're not going to see laws get passed about the inhumane conditions we all know about.

Foie gras doesn't have a multibillion dollar industry behind it, so it has little in the way of lobbying power.

I often defend animal rights groups when people say, "Why can't they focus on where the real problems are?" They do. In fact, foie gras is a minor fight for most of them. But the powers-that-be aren't going to touch the campaigns against mainstream livestock with a ten-foot pole.

And yes, the standard quip about preferring to be a foie gras duck over a Tyson chicken is apt, but the fact that one genre of livestock-rearing is unethical does not, in fact, have any bearing on the ethics of another genre of livestock-rearing. I'd rather be a goat at Redwood Hill Farms than a foie gras duck. Does that mean that goat cheese is good but foie gras is bad?

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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And yes, the standard quip about preferring to be a foie gras duck over a Tyson chicken is apt, but the fact that one genre of livestock-rearing is unethical does not, in fact, have any bearing on the ethics of another genre of livestock-rearing. I'd rather be a goat at Redwood Hill Farms than a foie gras duck. Does that mean that goat cheese is good but foie gras is bad?

Isn't this "standard quip" really more about the hypocrisy of those who attack foie gras while not attacking mainstream, mass-produced meat than it is about declaring one to be better than the other? To me, it seems to almost proclaim them as equal - if you have a problem with one, you should have a problem with both, and vice versa. In other words, no fair picking and choosing, whichever side you come down on.

Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Exactly. It's about the hypocrisy of people who are anti-foie gras but eat regular supermarket chicken -- a group which includes about 95% of the non-vegans who are against foie gras, I would estimate.

derricks, I'm not sure that the example of Redwood Hills Farm goats versus Hudson Valley Foie Gras ducks is a particularly useful one, because the goats aren't being raised for slaughter. Also interesting to hear that the "quip about preferring to be a foie gras duck over a Tyson chicken" has become standard -- since it was born right in these forums.

What hasn't been proven to my satisfaction is that raising ducks for foie gras, given the best modern methods and techniques such as are in use at Hudson Valley (the largest foie gras producer in the US), is inherently inhumane. Especially not when compared to the majority of other things we do every day to get food (dragging a fish through the water by a hook stuck through its mouth and then drowning it in the air, finishing cattle on grain, etc.). One can, of course, take the position that anything we do to animals for our own gain, including domesticating them and raising them for slaughter, is inherently inhumane. But that position doesn't particularly have a place in a discussion just about foie gras.

The fact is that the average person who is against foie gras might be characterized as someone who a) doesn't understand duck physiology and psychology or the actual gavage process, b) who has bought in to some of the more extreme propaganda, and c) who thinks of foie gras as "rich people's food" and therefore doesn't mind getting rid of it. You can bet that most of these people would be dead set against applying similar thinking and legal regulation to the production of chickens if it meant a jump from sixty-nine cents a pound to $2.69 a pound at the local grocery store.

--

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I cannot tell you how appreciative I am to see such well-reasoned arguments here. What a breath of sanity.

The foie gras crusade has glamour to the media because it is, at first glance, an attack on something that is perceived to be a decadent treat for the rich. What a bizarre thing to witness in America.

I agree that there is hypocrisy in objecting to one method of "torture" but not others -- that the crusaders do not see or acknowledge this renders their point moot, in my eyes.

Jennifer L. Iannolo

Founder, Editor-in-Chief

The Gilded Fork

Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Home of the Culinary Podcast Network

Never trust a woman who doesn't like to eat. She is probably lousy in bed. (attributed to Federico Fellini)

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I agree that there is hypocrisy in objecting to one method of "torture" but not others -- that the crusaders do not see or acknowledge this renders their point moot, in my eyes.

Well, this maybe isn't entirely correct. Most of the "crusaders" -- which is to say, the small number of activists who put their agenda before the media and try to influence opinions and push for legislation -- are people who object equally to the other practices we decry. Indeed, most of them are vegans and don't think humans should be using animals for anything.

It's the uninformed, knee-jerk types like the Chicago aldermen who are the true hypocrites in these situations. How much do you want to bet that Joe Moore eats factory chicken?

--

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from the editorial linked above by scordelia:

. . . foie gras production is an egregious cruelty that is outside the bounds of acceptable conduct in a society that values compassion.

Clearly, the writer of the editorial is a bit naive about how food is actually produced. Like Sam posted above in reference to Alderman Moore, odds are that Mr. Hamer eats factory-processed chicken. Either that, or he's advocating that no animal products ever be consumed.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Exactly.  It's about the hypocrisy of people who are anti-foie gras but eat regular supermarket chicken -- a group which includes about 95% of the non-vegans who are against foie gras, I would estimate.

A valid point. But I wouldn't classify it as hypocrisy so much as ignorance. PETA running a kill shelter is hypocrisy; I just think most people don't really understand how their eggs got to them. And I think that stems from a deliberate effort by agribusiness to keep that information out of the public eye. Even those who try to avoid such products are misled: Your eggs may be organic and free-range, but the birds were still debeaked and force-molted.

Or perhaps its a feeling of futility. Consumers and legislators don't feel like they have any power to change egg and pork production, but here is one thing they can do. Of course, that presumes that people have heard of foie gras, which is obviously one of its biggest problems (that and it's easy to anthropomorphize the process).

What hasn't been proven to my satisfaction is that raising ducks for foie gras, given the best modern methods and techniques such as are in use at Hudson Valley (the largest foie gras producer in the US), is inherently inhumane.

The EU investigatory group argued that because the ducks couldn't engage in "normal" activities (within the universe of livestock animals), it constituted poor welfare. But I thought their case was much weaker without battery cages (which is why they requested a ban on them). But even they, with their noticeable anti-foie-gras bias, had to acknowledge that the few experiments that have tried to measure stress in foie gras birds couldn't come up with any chemical indications that the birds are stressed during gavage.

And while the anti-foie-gras camp can dismiss this as saying that studies can show anything (and let's be clear, those experiments were done by agricultural facilities in southwest France, which have a vested interest in keeping foie gras alive and well), I've not seen any studies showing the reverse.

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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I hit threshold last night with this issue, so this morning I published an editorial called The Duck Stops Here.

As I am committed to abiding by eGullet's rules regarding political issues, I won't discuss those here (there is a forum over at GM for that).

However, in keeping with what this forum *is* about, I will say that I'm glad the spotlight on foie gras has at least compelled some people to research the facts surrounding its production. Of course, the quality of "facts" from some corners is dubious, but people should make their own decisions on this issue, whatever they may be.

Again, for me, the bottom line is: If you don't like the method, don't eat it. But leave me to my foie gras -- in peace.

Jennifer L. Iannolo

Founder, Editor-in-Chief

The Gilded Fork

Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Home of the Culinary Podcast Network

Never trust a woman who doesn't like to eat. She is probably lousy in bed. (attributed to Federico Fellini)

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