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Oregon getting ready to say farewell to foie gras


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I see the movement to dictate what I can and cannot put on my plate is moving north from California. Is Washington next?

Oregon came a step closer to bidding au revoir to foie gras after the state's Senate passed a bill to outlaw the production and sale of fattened duck and goose livers.

The bill, passed on Tuesday by 18-8 votes, would make it a crime to force-feed fowl or serve the fattened livers in restaurants, although the law has yet to go into effect since it will next face a vote in Oregon's House of Representatives.

What the fuck, am I going to have to smuggle it in from Canada?
"At a time when we don't have a K-12 (education) budget and a health and human services budget, to go and pass a bill to prevent the force-feeding of ducks that's not even a problem in Oregon, demonstrates to me that we have our priorities out of line," said state senator Jason Atkinson.
Amen, brother.

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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Maybe it is just my own personal confusion, but haven't we been limiting in one form or another what people can and cannot put on their plates since before we had plates?

While I agree that it is a waste of time and money for the Oregon legislature to bother with this sort of issue, I am far from put out over the whole thing. If it means that another sentient creature can avoid some unnecessary torture and death, then yea, sure, leave that one particular item off my menu. It isn't anything I'll get upset over.

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Maybe it is just my own personal confusion, but haven't we been limiting in one form or another what people can and cannot put on their plates since before we had plates?

While I agree that it is a waste of time and money for the Oregon legislature to bother with this sort of issue, I am far from put out over the whole thing.  If it means that another sentient creature can avoid some unnecessary torture and death, then yea, sure, leave that one particular item off my menu.  It isn't anything I'll get upset over.

Well, we've got religious restrictions. And, of course, you can't get a plateful of peyote buttons or psilocybin mushrooms with your fettuccini and parmesan. But I'm curious where you get the idea that government oversite of your dinner is an OK thing.

Once the government starts telling you what you can or cannot put in your mouth, trouble is bound to follow.

PS: Welcome to eGullet.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I wonder if the Oregon legislature is aware of how most factory-farmed chickens live out their short miserable lives. I guess it's easier to pick on something pretentions like foie gras than something most of your constituents eat several times a week.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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But I'm curious where you get the idea that government oversite of your dinner is an OK thing. 

Once the government starts telling you what you can or cannot put in your mouth, trouble is bound to follow.

PS: Welcome to eGullet.

Thanks for the welcome! You folks have a lot of great things to share! I am excited to come aboard! I have been watching some of the pizza threads for some time. If you ever plan a taste test in NY, count me in!

As for the topic at hand, I am all about personal freedoms, providing that you aren't harming anyone else. As far as I'm concerned, bring on the happy shrooms at your pleasure, government mandate or no. Just don't harvest them by torturing or enslaving other creatures who happen to have a well-developed nervous system.

I'm sure it would trouble me if the government started banning things that I hold near and dear for a moral imperative I don't agree with. I just figure that we are an animal advanced enough that we don't need to abuse other animals for gluttony's sake. I can gather plenty of sustenance without foie gras. For that matter, I am very much the glutton without foie gras. But to each his own and I understand that liberty is what holds this country together. Banning foie gras doesn't support human liberty and that is a very unfortunate thing.

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I wonder if the Oregon legislature is aware of how most factory-farmed chickens live out their short miserable lives.  I guess it's easier to pick on something pretentions like foie gras than something most of your constituents eat several times a week.

On a similar note, my wife and I went to Hurley's in NW Portland for dinner last New Year's Eve when they were doing a multicourse dinner with several courses containing foie gras. At the time, they were getting a lot of heat from foie gras protesters and people who would protest by making reservations and then not showing up. So they were doing one big blow-out before taking foie gras off their menu. We expressed to our waiter our support of the restaurant's right to serve foie gras, and that we were there that night to support the restaurant. It was interesting to note, he said, that people complained only about foie gras, and not about the other duck courses on the menu. Interesting, he said, because all the duck meat, including the foie gras, comes from the same ducks.

Edited by stevea (log)
Check out our Fooddoings and more at A View from Eastmoreland
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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is a copy of a letter I sent to several Oregon State Representaties and to the Governer. I got replies, which I've included below. It's kind of a rant, and I could have proofread it more... but well, at least I wrote I suppose. (I actually sent a few versions, a bit personalized per person, but this is the one I sent to the Governor's address.)

-----------

Dear Governor Kulongoski and Oregon Representatives,

I am concerned to learn of Senate Bill 861, which calls for the ban in our

State of one of the world's greatest culinary delicacies: foie gras. I

believe that allowing this ban to pass would be a tragedy in one of the

most gastronomically gifted States in our nation.

Proponents of the ban argue that producing foie gras is an inhumane, cruel

practice. However, they often neglect to emphasize in the same breath that

this can be true of any sort of activity related to raising animals for

food, and that there are ways of reducing or eliminating the level of

irresponsible husbandry. I do not view a wholesale ban on production or

sale of foie gras as a good first solution.

If the concern really and honestly relates to avoiding animal cruelty,

shouldn't we at least first establish whether or not the process is always

cruel? Will a foie gras duck ever live long enough to suffer? Is it in

fact highly similar to a natural process, as produce Sonoma Valley Foie

Gras asserts? When a responsible rancher feeds each fowl by hand, does it

make a difference? According to Edward Behr, the "birds grow accustomed to

the feeder during the fattening and neither shy away much nor resist".

Let's answer these questions before we leap into a reactionary ban.

When compared to large-scale industrial beef production and proliferation

of genetically modified plants and animal experimentation, a small farm

fattening up a flock of geese seems pretty insignificant. It may or may

not be possible to truly produce a "cruelty-free" product, but we must at

least ask "cruelty-free compared to what"? As one eGullet.org reader

pointed out, "if I had to choose between living as a duck raised for foie

gras or living as a Tyson chicken, I'd choose to be the duck in a

heartbeat."

Add to this that those who wish to avoid foie gras for philosophical

reasons can continue to avoid it, allowing the market to decide how much

of it is produced, and I see no need for a ban. It's not like second-hand

smoke, where others can be damaged "by proxy". If I enjoy some foie gras

at my own table, my neighbor won't have to eat it as well.

Oregon is in a unique position to become one of the world's greatest

culinary Meccas. We live in one of the few places on Earth blessed enough

to have our own distinctive wild truffles (esteemed by the late James

Beard as being at least as good as their European counterparts), bountiful

vineyards that are just now coming into their own as world-class producers

of wine, amazing gifts of seafood and game from our often still-pristine

wilderness, and acres upon acres of some of the best organic fruit and

vegetables that you can find anywhere.

We also have many ecologically responsible ranchers raising and humanely

processing noble animals like chickens, cows, and pigs for some of the

best food in the world. The way these ranches work is as day to night when

compared to industrial-scale so-called "ranches". I have come to believe

that when done on small scale it is possible to apply modern, respectful

methods to the ancient process of raising ducks and geese for foie gras

production-- any cruelty can be reduced to a minimum, if it is really

under those conditions actually cruel at all.

Although to the best of my knowledge no company in Oregon presently

produces foie gras, it surely has a place as one of the greatest

traditional gourmet delights. In a State capable of producing some of the

finest ecologically-conscious food in the world, banning something really

and truly good while allowing megacorporations like Pepsico and McDonald's

to perpetuate true cruelty to animals and also to human beings by

furthering the cultural cheapening of our citizens would be appallingly

shameful.

It is hard for me to believe that legislation like Senate Bill 861 is even

in serious consideration in our State, given the other problems we share.

But since it is, and has passed the Senate, please consider that there

might be a way to responsibly produce foie gras. Please ask for research

on humane practices. Please ask why such attention is being focused on

banning a process that gives pleasure and happiness when so many other

issues facing us cause much more damage to both animals and people alike.

Sincerely yours,

Jesse Williamson, Medford.

Further information:

-------------------

These are not truly academic resources-- for perhaps it's not a truly

academic discussion. But here are some places that might be used to

springboard constructive conversation:

1. "http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/food/218685_foiegras04.html"

"the pre-slaughter mortality rate in his industry is 3 percent to

4 percent, lower than in turkey or other poultry industries."

"there is no evidence of pain in the foie gras process."

2. "http://www.worldtable.com/foiegras.html#opinion"

See the sidebar "In Defense of Foie Gras".

3. "http://www.sonomafoiegras.com/"

Sonoma Valley Foie Gras website. They have information which (of

course) runs very contrary to anti-foie criticism. Shouldn't we

independently investigate the claims of both sides before rushing

to a ban?

4. Eric Schlosser's book, "Fast Food Nation" (ISBN: 0060938455).

Illuminating view into chain of events caused by the

dominance of fast food industries.

5. "http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=64581&pid=883915&mode=threaded&show=&st=&"

Lots of discussion of foie gras here, it of course goes back and

forth. One reader observes:

But here's the thing: if we're going to talk of "humane

treatment" and "quality of life," there is simply no way a

duck raised for foie gras doesn't have a much better life

than the average factory chicken.

=================

And replies:

=================

Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 07:34:22 -0700

From: Sen Bates <Bates.Sen@state.or.us>

To: Jesse Williamson <jesse@mind.net>

Subject: RE: Concerns about Senate Bill 861, Foie Gras Ban

Dear Jesse

Thank you for your letter regarding Senate Bill 861. It is important

that we not take this bill out of context; it doesn't ban foie gras

production in Oregon. Instead, the bill makes it illegal to force feed

birds. I agree with your concerns about the elimination of foie gras,

especially in relation to Oregon's fine foods and tourist industries. I

also think that there are many possible ways to responsibly produce foie

gras, as you hypothesized. The fact remains that force feeding birds is

an inhumane practice. I expect that the foie gras industry will be able

to find acceptable ways to raise birds without infringing upon the

outlines that SB861 necessitates.

Once again, thank you for your letter. Please feel free to contact my

office regarding this and other issues.

With Kind Regards,

Dr. Alan Bates

State Senator

District 3

=====================

Follow-up to prev:

Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 08:24:18 -0700

From: Sen Bates <Bates.Sen@state.or.us>

To: Jesse Williamson <jesse@mind.net>

Subject: RE: Concerns about Senate Bill 861, Foie Gras Ban

Jesse,

Thank you for the e-mail. Senator Bates has considered the Foie Gras

issue very carefully. I will be sure to pass your e-mail on to the

Senator. Again, thank you for expressing your thoughts and concerns

regarding SB861.

Corie Weaver

Legislative Assistant

Senator Alan Bates, District 3

503-986-1703

-----Original Message-----

From: Jesse Williamson [mailto:jesse@mind.net]

Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2005 8:16 AM

To: Sen Bates

Subject: RE: Concerns about Senate Bill 861, Foie Gras Ban

Dear Senator Bates,

I very much appreciate your taking the time to reply to my letter. Thank

you for correcting me as to the intent of SB861. From the content of

your response, I can see that you have considered the issue well-- and

I'm feeling much more positive for it.

With appreciation,

_Jesse Williamson ;-};

=====================

Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 13:27:52 -0700

From: Rep Richardson <Richardson.Rep@state.or.us>

To: Jesse Williamson <jesse@mind.net>

Subject: RE: Concerns about Senate Bill 861, Foie Gras Ban

Dear Jesse-

I agree that the Legislature has much better things to worry

about than foie gras.

These misplaced priorities illustrate who is truly doing the

people's business in this session. House Republicans are fighting for

tax cuts, and making sure that the will of the people is done,

especially when it comes to property rights, gun ownership and the

state's ban on gay marriage. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have spent

considerable time and effort trying to undermine and circumvent the will

of the public on all of those issues.

SB 861 has already passed the Senate, then was referred to the

House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on April 29.

My staff has enclosed a copy of your e-mail in the file for SB

861. I will keep your input in mind if this bill comes before me for a

vote.

Sincerely,

Dennis Richardson

Oregon House of Representatives

District 4

===============

Follow-up:

Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 18:44:12 -0700

From: Rep Richardson <Richardson.Rep@state.or.us>

To: Jesse Williamson <jesse@mind.net>

Subject: RE: Concerns

Jesse,

You and people like you are the reason I am here. I am committed to

being a good citizen legislator, and I am trying my best to use wisdom

and common sense in the decisions I make here.

Dennis R.

-----Original Message-----

From: Jesse Williamson [mailto:jesse@mind.net]

Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2005 2:09 PM

To: Rep Richardson

Subject: RE: Concerns about Senate Bill 861, Foie Gras Ban

On Tue, 3 May 2005, Rep Richardson wrote:

Dear Dennis,

I want to write you again to say "thanks" for taking my email into

consideration. I appreciate very much that you have thought about this

issue, and also that you recognize there are bigger fish to fry. I'm

more optimistic about our State government after seeing that as a

citizen my voice can indeed be heart, it's very heartening.

Best wishes,

_Jesse Williamson ;-};

========================

...anyway, that's how that went. :)

_Jesse Williamson ;-};

Edited by chardan (log)
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Dr. Alan Bates

State Senator

.

.

.

The fact remains that force feeding birds is an inhumane practice.

ARRRRRRGGGG! Of course it's inhumane, they're not humans, they're ducks! ARRRRRRGGGG!

Putting a chicken in a cage for all of its 3 months of life is also inhumane. Keeping the lights on 23 out of 24 hours a day to increase egg production is also inhumane. They're not humans, they're my dinner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(calm down... step away from the keyboard...)

:wacko:

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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In the respect your Food thread I had someone attacking Foie Gras production. When I pointed out that the dairy trade was the reason for the veal trade as we were drinking the calfs milk, they put words in my mouth and implied that I was for crated veal. As I said in the thread I would rather be a Foie Gras duck at least the majority live a free range life upto the period of fattening.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=67112

But I thought as a country you had very strict guidelines on imports particularly after following Total yoghurt thread, over the years I've come to think this was to maintain a strong home production before opening the market upto imports, am I wrong to think this, not judging whether its right or wrong?

Here in the UK it's illegal to produce Foie Gras but we can import it. Though the EU has put its nose into other products i.e Chocolate now even Europe sells "Chocolate" not real Chocolate and chocolate flavoured plus several artisan cheeses are no longer the same as they use to be, some dissapearing.

If the Japanese can eat Fugu, whats wrong with the cheeses as they stand, we all know the risk of un-pasteurised cheeses.

I also mentioned in the thread that farmers have to contend with imports from countries that have no animal rights laws, and that as farmers they do know best it's in there interest to look after there animals. Regardless off the end product, we sometimes equate produce as pets whats next, I've heard stories of crabs being pulled out of nets leaving limbs tangled in them.

I reckon if a large Supermarket wished to provide Foie Gras, imports would be allowed, but I guess thats politics.

This sounds a bit like the Fox hunting row we have/had in the UK a small point that arouses great debate and seems to be class orientated yet wins the vote of the majority it's all about a politician standing on a soap box to get noticed.

These food stuffs wil always arouse great frictions, but can you imagine a politician standing upto to the dairy trade how many votes would he lose rather than gain. I say there's no place in food for politics. :raz: He'd have a hard time telling people to stop using milk products.

If people where more informed about commercial farming and stopped expecting there meat on a styrofoam packet with cling film on, maybe this subject would arouse no interest.

Edited by PassionateChefsDie (log)
Perfection cant be reached, but it can be strived for!
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Putting a chicken in a cage for all of its 3 months of life is also inhumane. Keeping the lights on 23 out of 24 hours a day to increase egg production is also inhumane. They're not humans, they're my dinner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(calm down... step away from the keyboard...)

:wacko:

Some of us choose not to eat chickens that have been in cages their whole lives or eggs from layers that don't live outside and follow day/night cycles. I believe the term inhumane applies to the human doing the action, not to the animal on the receiving end of the action. All that being said, I think discussion about what is ok and what isn't when it comes to raising animals for our consumption is good, but stupid showboating laws by the ignorant are not.

From what I've been told about the ducks raised for foie gras on family farms in the south of France, what they go through is not pleasant by any stretch, but on the grand scale of "inhumanity" it ranks pretty low compared to how your average steer gets lives, gets butchered, and ends up on your burger in the US.

regards,

trillium

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As I said in my letter to Oregon reps, it seems like it in most cases there are ways to cut "cruelty" to a minimum. There's probably some better definition, but intuitively I'd consider "animal cruelty" to be some situation in which a human being is intentionally abusing an animal.

I am not entirely convinced that hand-feeding a goose as for foie gras is in fact cruel. Not that I'm /unconvinced/-- and I can certainly see how it could lead mistreatment-- but one thing that is often pointed out is that the animal becomes unhealthy... yes, that's true... but frankly, it's probably not going to live long enough to suffer any real detriment.

I just saw someone walking a really obese dog. They'll probably keep feeding it like that for the next few years, until it finally has a heart attack. That seems cruel.

Just a few thoughts.

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Dr. Alan Bates

State Senator

.

.

.

The fact remains that force feeding birds is an inhumane practice.

ARRRRRRGGGG! Of course it's inhumane, they're not humans, they're ducks! ARRRRRRGGGG!

Putting a chicken in a cage for all of its 3 months of life is also inhumane. Keeping the lights on 23 out of 24 hours a day to increase egg production is also inhumane. They're not humans, they're my dinner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(calm down... step away from the keyboard...)

:wacko:

I'm pro-foie gras myself, but this argument, which is made often is irrelevant ind ineffective.

If a practice is cruel, ending the practice is a legimate response, even if other cruel practices remain legal.

We have to have a better argument than this, or we will lose. We also have to admit that the fact that we like something doesn't necessarily mean that it's OK.

(I'm working on it...)

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Maybe our legislators aren't quite as idiotic as they often appear.

Jim

And the Supreme Court ruled today that states can't maintain their out-of-state wine shipping laws.

What's happening to this world? :raz:

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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