Outrage by animal activists over foie gras has led to a sudden change of menu for the Winterlude kickoff dinner in Canada on February 4th.
The National Capital Commission had originally slated celebrity foie gras chef Martin Picard to serve the kickoff dinner of the winter festival in Ottawa. Winterlude is an annual celebration of winter in Canada that involves ice skating, ice sculptures, and other cultural and family events spread over three weekends in February.
Picard was chosen to serve the kickoff dinner at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, a move which raised ire from animal activists and those opposed to the “delicacy” of foie gras, which Picard specializes in.
Foie gras is “fat liver” in French, and comes from a duck or a goose that has been force-fed to such an extreme that its liver gets engorged to between six and ten times its normal size. Force-feeding of the animal involves it being restrained by a farmer while a metal tube is shoved down its throat, filling it full of corn mash from a mechanical pump.
Foie gras producers however, insist that the animals aren’t harmed by the process and that it is an entirely painless and gentle endeavor. Astoundingly, they can almost always say this with a straight face.
Foods like foie gras and veal demonstrate to the public the horrifying barbarity that human beings are willing to blithely inflict on animals in the name of a culinary specialty or a cultural tradition.
Sadly, however, these foods become single-issue campaigns for many activists who feel that by virtue of the novelty of the production process combined with the expensive delicacy status of the meals make these foods somehow worse than other animal foods.
They may be more surprising, they may seem more alien to you culturally, but morally is there a real difference between the misery of a duck with a tube down its throat for the sake of a fancy French delicacy and a pig hung upside down by a chain with its throat cut for good old American bacon?
We can and must be horrified by foie gras. We must allow ourselves to be disgusted by cruelty, wherever we find it practiced, regardless of whether it’s a duck, a pig, a person, or a fish being tortured. What we cannot allow ourselves to do however, is draw distinctions and claim that certain forms of cruelty are “better” than others and make foie gras and veal the scapegoat for an entire animal agriculture industry that tortures and kills animals indiscriminately.
It isn’t a victory to have a foie gras taken off the Winterlude dinner menu if it’s simply going to be replaced by another kind of dead animal, even if its one we’re more comfortable killing. Shifting the suffering from one animal to another doesn’t eliminate the injustice, it simply redistributes it.
A boycott of foie gras is only meaningful in the context of a boycott of all animal products. Go vegan as a means to end injustice and misery, instead of simply moving it to a different animal.