I’m so over the foie debate. It goes for both sides: the militant enviro-foodies and those vigilantly opposing the potential ban of their favorite luxury food. I”ll admit right off the top that I don’t know all of the intricacies of the argument, each side’s position, and their well-reasoned reasons for their stance on the issue, but can we all get some perspective about the issue? It’s foie effing-gras, not an essential food like, oh I don’t know… milk, or bread.

Maybe that’s not a valid argument for you, fine. It’s not all that satisfying to me either. Just because something’s a luxury doesn’t mean it isn’t worth protecting, but the ferocity with which the pro-foie faction approaches the issue is a bit baffling to me. To those of you on that side of the issue: how many times in the last year did you eat foie gras? How will your life really be different if it’s banned? Is this really so crucial?

Ok, again, I’m making a practical argument about an emotional issue. If you answered “abso-fricking-lutely” and then burst a blood vessel just thinking about the atrocity of the question, let me ask you this: do you oppose the ban because you believe the facts have been distorted, or do you just want to protect your right to eat fancy fatty duck liver?

Let’s think of it this way: the last food-related issue that was voted on in California was the ban on shark finning. It passed. If you haven’t seen Sharkwater, please do. The main argument for the ban was that the shark population is dwindling, and the argument against the ban was largely cultural, since shark fin soup is such a big part of Chinese weddings. That argument didn’t hold much water. So, should this same line of logic be extended to foie?

Maybe.

Like I said, I don’t have all the info, but after reading ten too many Facebook posts about the issue, I do have to wonder if the main reason people are so against it is just because they like the taste, and whether or not that fact alone justifies buying an “I heart foie gras” t-shirt.

For you, it might be, but personally, the “It’s my constitutional right to eat foie gras” argument that I’ve seen on some locally-produced stickers smacks of the worst type of entitlement.

14 Responses to “Rant: Foie Groan”

  1. Jayme on May 16, 2012

    Hey Erin great topic. I honestly have never eating Fois Gras because it looks nasty, but I eat anything so if it was placed in front of me I would try it. Heck I like pate so why not right? I completely agree with your point of view. If the ban on shark fin held true so should this, however…. I do disagree with the idea that milk and bread are essential foods. I think cows were meant to consume cows milk while humans are meant to consume human milk. Now that doesnt mean I drink breast milk I just think there would be a lot less health issues if it wasn’t such a taboo thing. Then there’s the issue of milking a human….LOL that’s just ridiculous. I digress…. Humans are meant to eat meat and leafy greens the rest is junk! But damn good tasty junk. Its so hard to resist a giant tasty cheese pizza. In the end I think fancy rich people food need not be protected. Ban Fois Gras!! That is my little rant! ;)

    Reply
  2. edwinreal on May 16, 2012

    There are a few reasons why this ban bugs me:

    1) If the issue is about inhumane treatment of animals, why are we stopping at ducks and geese when farm conditions for cows, chickens and pigs are more vile? Maybe because there are only two major FG producers in the country, and they cannot possibly put up a fight that would bankrupt them?

    2) Pro-Foie businesses are being targeted for still serving foie. The restaurants are not doing anything illegal until the ban goes into effect on 7/1/12. Let ‘em eat foie!

    3) The ferocity of the anti-foie gras protesters are going beyond “peaceful” protests. Threatening Chefs and their children, bringing a restaurateur’s son’s suicide into the foie argument, harassing chef’s children at school…that’s just too much.

    I don’t eat foie often. In fact, I’ve seen French documentaries on the issue and didn’t eat foie for close to 10 years.

    Regardless of my feelings about foie, shouldn’t the government go after bigger issues than something that affect so few people in the grand scheme of things?

    There has to be a better, more humane way of producing this. If the issue is actually the production of foie, isn’t it much more fair to both sides to find a solution other than a full ban of the product?

    As Californians, we should strive to be on the forefront of producing foie as ethically as possible. Outlawing it outright will only lead to a black market from in and out of CA. Being a luxury item, California Certified Humane Foie Gras could be a taxable item that could generate millions of dollars for our state’s economy through world wide sales.

    Great, thought-provoking piece EJ.

    Reply
  3. Jon Weber on May 16, 2012

    You shouldn’t believe this fight is all about foie gras. Sure, listening to the extremists on both sides would lead you to believe that but the real issue is SB 1520. It is broad and ambiguous and sets a dangerous precedent.

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  4. bonnie on May 16, 2012

    I ate foie gras 3 times last week. I will eat it again this week. I freakin’ love it. And if you looked overseas you’d see that the protests made a positive change – not banning it, but changing the way that it is farmed, ethically. There is a huge need for ethical farming – but duck liver is such a small drop in the bucket. Chicken farms and pig farms are far more widespread and far bigger problems. I can afford to pay 3x more for foie gras and will if i know it is sourced ethically and i can still eat the rich goodness. But the majority of the population refuses to vote with their wallets on the day to day foodstuffs that have produced ‘scale economy’ feedlots that truly are disgusting.

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  5. Erin Jackson on May 16, 2012

    @Jayme: you know, I almost deleted the “milk” part because I agree, it’s not actually essential (hey, we could all live on canned beans, technically!) but it is an item that most people purchase every week, without fail.

    @Edwin I agree with all of your points, and think it’s unfortunate that all of the attention is being focused on foie, when we should be looking at all meat production practices, especially factory farming. As for how important any issue is vs. another, that’s subjective. In the grand scheme of things, I agree that it’s not that big of an issue and there are more important things, but you can make that argument about everything to some degree, depending on your own personal values.

    Reply
  6. Rodzilla on May 16, 2012

    Erin, it’s not about the foie!

    Ask one of these protesters if any meat consumption is humane – they will tell you no.

    So at what point will they stop harassing chefs and restaurateurs? Or anyone who chooses to eat meat?

    I have loads more to say but I intentionally kept this one short so people would read it.

    Reply
  7. Rodzilla on May 16, 2012

    Jayme, there is a difference between say shark-fin or otorlan than foie. I don’t mean this to be offensive, but rather an example of someone who hasn’t been informed of the process automatically assuming that it’s an inhumane practice.

    I don’t blame you for not caring enough to look into the specifics of such a niche-product, but if you want to voice such an opinion you may want to inform yourself a bit more.

    Same to you, Erin. – but at least you asked for information.

    http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/12/the-physiology-of-foie-why-foie-gras-is-not-u.html

    Reply
  8. Rodzilla on May 16, 2012

    Imagine you start getting harassed for reviewing burgers all around San Diego. They tell the papers not to hire you, and threaten your livelihood in every way they can.

    Maybe they come with personal threats/attacks, it gets so bad that you agree to stop reviewing burgers. Things die down for a little while, and then they want you to stop reviewing another food with animal products.

    This might sound outlandish but I assure you it’s not. Many of these foie-bullies have been doing everything they can to harass and bully these establishments.

    Reply
  9. Rodzilla on May 16, 2012

    Last point.

    The fact that they’ve chosen to attack the establishments that are the largest proponents of sustainable/ethical farming practices shows their true intentions. They don’t care about humane animal farming, they want to do away with all of it.

    Reply
  10. Erin Jackson on May 16, 2012

    I am with you on the bullying thing. It’s dumb. But, I also understand it. If the same thing was going on with shark fin soup, I might get so upset about the issue that I’d lose my cool. I’m not one to protest outside of restaurants, but I do boycott places that serve that shit.

    The constitutional right thing is stupid. Put “constitution” or “freedom” or “war” in any argument and you’ll get a response. Those are the American hot-buttons. In my own way, I was trying to introduce an opportunity where people might question whether or not their motives are based strictly on the fact that something tastes good. I think we have a responsibility to the environment and shouldn’t go around killing/eating/boinking anything we want just because we want to. If that’s not a valid concern because foie production in CA is above board, fine… but I still submit it as something to ponder in regards to other things, including beef production, blue fin tuna, and any other protein (or vegetable) we convert into poo while simultaneously raping mother nature.

    Ok I’m done.

    Reply
  11. Sherm on May 16, 2012

    As someone who’s never had foie, I feel like I can come at this issue with a somewhat unbiased perspective. Having said that, it’s most definitely not a simple debate. Foie proponents have sustainability and (in my opinion, at least) ethical treatment on their side. The proponents of the ban claim there is no such thing as ethical foie. Having seen both ethically raised ducks for foie and horribly raised chicken for megamarts, I can tell you I’m a thousand times more for banning the chicken farming. Another argument can be made that foie is a “luxury” food item that is not “necessary.” I find much fault with this argument. By separating foie from other meat products, the radical PETA types have managed to shape the argument to their advantage. If raising an animal a certain way for a certain food application is wrong, where does the line finally get drawn? Every variety of meat we consume has been raised from start-to-finish with the eater/buyer’s tastes in mind (barring hunted meat, obviously). If you oppose foie, you should probably be a vegetarian. If you’re not a vegetarian, why take a stand on *this* particular issue.

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  12. Curt Freeman on May 16, 2012

    Referring to the original post – this type of non-sensical literature should be banned in the state of california

    Reply
  13. Dan Moody on May 17, 2012

    Erin,

    Sure, there is a rhetoric issue, but the constitutionality of government action is always fair game for discussion. We have a moral imperative, as citizens, especially journalists, to keep the government honest. Banning products willy-nilly is a bad idea. Period.

    We have a constitutional right to foie gras. Who cares if it’s just for taste? It’s not like the rest of the duck is thrown away. Fattening the liver just ensures that the organ is eaten. I’d argue it’s far more “sustainable” because more of the duck is eaten than otherwise would be.

    Your argument about what we should or should not do is an argument of morality, not an argument about laws. If the anti-foie lobby wants to win the hearts and minds of people through education (with lies and propaganda, in my opinion), then fine, let them do that. The can convince people not to eat foie gras. I accept that.

    Once they go beyond that and start banning things, we have a different argument. Now the argument is about constitutionality. Without the ban, the argument can be about what we should or shouldn’t do. It can be about whatever moral/ethical system you subscribe to. Unfortunately, the opponents went the ban route, so what you suggest is the discussion isn’t really the discussion anymore.

    The pro foie gras lobby didn’t make that decision, the anti foie douchebags did. If you have a problem with why the debate is so contentious, I suggest you take it up with them.

    To label “both sides” as extremists when, in fact, only one side in this has been extreme is just ignorant. (I don’t mean ignorant pejoratively.)

    DRM

    Reply

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