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Is Banning Foie Gras the Solution to the Problem?

Is Banning Foie Gras the Solution to the Problem?

Foie gras…. discuss!

Considering the highly volatile and controversial nature of the subject, it is almost sufficient to just mention this vilified animal product, without taking a stance one way or another, and you have an instant firefight (see comments below). For those a bit unfamiliar with what exactly foie gras might be, it is an arguably delicious pâté-like product derived from the fatty livers of captive ducks and geese who are force fed using the age old French process called “gavage,” which entails putting a metal tube down a duck’s throat to deliver a large amount of corn-based food that causes the liver to enlarge, thus producing a very fatty liver. The results, as I mentioned above, make gourmands go crazy with desire, but they also make animal rights activists go equally, if not more, crazy with rage. The talk of banning foie gras extends back many years (not in France mind you) and now, just days from now, the state of California is poised to enact the most significant ban of the sale (and production) of foie gras ever attempted. Predictably animal rights advocates call it justice, while foie gras enthusiasts call it “foie-mageddon.”

California’s first-in-the nation ban on foie gras takes effect this Sunday (July 1st), which prohibits the sale of any product derived from the force-feeding of birds to enlarge their livers (The law was passed in 2004, but included a seven-and-a-half-year grace period giving enthusiasts a lot of time to say goodbye). Over the last month, a handful of foie gras proponents and chefs have begun a repeal effort and proposed new ethical standards, in lieu of an out-and-out ban. But attempts to create an “ethical” foie gras product (at least domestically) have not yielded promising results. A few years back, Dan Barber of New York’s Blue Hill tried his hand at pasture-raised foie gras (as demonstrated by a Spanish farmer) but it never quite took. And there are others who are doing their best to approximate the rich taste and texture of foie gras using slightly more ethically-derived ingredients, like chicken livers and butter. And then there are the vegetarian and vegan approximations, like Faux Gras, which are surprisingly good.

Still, the Californians who love their foie gras are no doubt stockpiling for the coming “foie-mageddon” and likely planning out of state, or out of country, travel to get their fix. But like with California politics and social change, what happens in California first tends to spread to the rest of the country, albeit slowly. So it is only a matter of time, providing this ban holds, that foie gras bans spread around the country – making this notorious and divisive product increasingly more difficult to come by (there are only a handful of places making foie gras domestically).

What is your feeling on the upcoming ban? Do you feel foie gras is terrain (or terrine) where no one should tread? Or do you feel that the cruelty aspect is relative, with other animal products and practices far worse in their treatment of captive animals? Is banning anything the way to raise consciousness?

Read more: Animal Rights, Blogs, Following Food, Food, Nature & Wildlife, News & Issues, Vegetarian, , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

137 comments

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9:38AM PST on Jan 23, 2013

It needs to be banned and we need to educate people about what is really like to produce it.

6:39AM PDT on Oct 8, 2012

The ban may not be the solution but it's a damn good start to making the public more humane.

8:11PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

Bnb U.- the creeps who want to eat foie gras don't even care what the animal had to go through to get that nasty diseased liver- so you can't "clean the wound" if people don't want to have empathy for a living creature. The best thing we can do for now is to ban it and prevent the suffering of the animals.

8:01PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

Yes, banning it is a good solution. I agree with Emily, it should be banned everywhere.

10:10PM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

It needs to be banned everywhere!!!

4:49AM PDT on Jul 9, 2012

Once you are informed about cruelty, you are faced with the choice of either being an accomplice to it or not.
But choosing not to eat foie gras (which is the product of an artificially produced diseased liver) or indeed any animal products, is wise not only from a humane viewpoint, but also out of self-interest, when you consider the many diseases associated with eating meat.
I believe humans should try, when possible, to always consider the higher good when making choices. It is in this way that society will evolve to the peaceful world we all claim to want so much, one where animals are finally respected and the acceptance of cruelty toward them for the mere satisfaction of our taste buds, our curiosity, our vanity, or our amusement, has no place.

2:07PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

http://i142.photobucket.com/albums/r98/rolanda_album/bizarro2.jpg

12:30PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

The people of the highest insight, talent, intellect and spirit have promoted vegetarian/vegan. Included: Pythagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Plutarch, Socrates, John the Baptist, Jesus, Buddha, Zoroaster, Nanak, Kabir, Tao, Einstein, Tesla, Edison, Singer, Salt, Seneca, Shaw, Thoreau, Ovid, Milton, daVinci, Blake, Wordsworth, Jobs, Tolstoy, Newton, Emerson, Darwin, Schweitzer, Spock, Kafka, Swedenborg, Wells, Rousseau, Krishnamurti, and many Taoists, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Greek, Egyptian, Persian mystery schools still follow the original teachings. Many athletes, artists, musicians, singers, actors of today also are enlightened about diet and the wide-ranging effects.

12:21PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

Eating our sentient relatives is very bad for us, the animals, spiritual evolution, and the environment. Do no harm. We are not superior and in possession of a superior perception and mind until we meditate within and experience the truths. Don't believe what you are taught to think, only know what is revealed to you via your own efforts of seeking spiritual truths i higher realms.

12:14PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

Excuse me Vladimir, but you do NOT have the right to abuse animals, which the production of foie GRAS entails. Personally, I think the production (yes, talk about a sentient being like a stalk of broccoli, nice...) of veal must be eliminated for the same reason. It involves cruelty to animals. You seem to think you have the right to do whatever you want. Do you have the right to commit child abuse? Laws are made to rein in horrid people like you.

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people are talking

We absolutely ADORE THEM. They are so versatile, slow-roasted are divine, we only get them in Spain…

Good tips. Thanks.

Awwww, gee, one big sweetie glad to see mommy home. Ya got to love them...

This needs to be put to an end for all ! WHY can't people just be informed and do what is right ? …

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