Making Foie Gras Illegal Sadly Not the Answer

Photo source:, Sgarton.

Photo source:, Sgarton.

In July 2012, foie gras, a paste made of the livers of force-fattened geese and ducks, was banned in California, on the reasonable grounds that pretty much nothing about making it is particularly nice to the birds.  On January 7, 2015, a judge threw out the ban, saying it “attempted to override existing federal law regulating poultry products”.

I am more interested in the reaction of people to the ban: before it went into effect (it was actually passed in 2004 and had a seven-and-a-half-year “grace period”), people had culinary foie gras orgies, putting it on everything.  While it was in effect, some restaurants gave it out for free as a way to get around the law.  And now that the ban is over, foie gras, the “forbidden treat”, is now trendy, with restaurants scrambling to get it back on the menu.  Basically, banning foie gras made it even more popular, rather like banning alcohol during Prohibition.

Clearly, simply making inhumanely produced animal products illegal is not the answer.  What is the answer?  Telling people how it is made doesn’t seem to help, although you’d think it would be primary (that’s certainly what convinced me not to eat it).  I am completely perplexed by people who hear: “This stuff is made by repeatedly holding down a live duck and filling it with fatty food until its liver reaches eight times normal size” and respond with “I want to eat that!” — even when there are alternatives presented.

No answers today.  Just a little “WTF?” as this goes by.

4 responses to “Making Foie Gras Illegal Sadly Not the Answer

  1. WTF is putting it politely methinks. I have zero respect for anyone who produces, consumes, condones or endorses this “food” from hell.

  2. Having worked for a short time writing grants for a regulatory body governing the different standards related to how food products may be created, shipped, and consumed I was horrified how lax some standards were and it changed how I eat. It also made it clear the breach between what we want and what we actually end up eating is due largely to the extremely lucrative industrialization of food creation. If we don’t know how our meal is made, from ingredient creation and shipping to the final process of delivering that meal, we have, at least in this country, given corporations our silent tacit approval to feed us some extremely questionable food stuffs.

    I laugh when I see people criticizing the “backward” culinary traditions of other “less developed” countries knowing if these people took a five minute tour of some well sourced websites they’d probably never shop at a grocery store or eat out at a restaurant ever again.

  3. Matthew Liverman

    I’ve had foix gras before and seen it made. Yes it it delish and no it is not made in humanely. Please get your facts straight.

    • I disagree that foie gras is “not made inhumanely”. To my knowledge, foie gras is made by force-feeding ducks, or geese, far more than they would normally eat (usually this involves stuffing a tube down their throat twice a day to fill them with food) so their livers become huge and abnormally fatty. Here is a pro-foie-gras article confirming that’s how they make foie gras.

      The farmers in this article, based on their experience, feel that their being able to eat foie gras is worth having their ducks undergo that process, and argue, based on physiology and the fact that ducks don’t complain in any way they can understand, that the process of gavage is humane. That is their opinion, which is perfectly valid based on their experience. I find that not all farms aspire to the same kindness that this farm does, and I have no way to easily vet the source of foie gras if it is presented in a restaurant. It could come from this farm; it could come from one of the terrible factory farms the animal rights activists like to film. Also, having never been a duck, I couldn’t tell you the duck’s opinion of the process. I can only guess, based on my knowledge of the universe, that being held down and having a tube stuffed down my throat would be somewhat unpleasant.

      In any case, there is nothing about my life that requires ducks to undergo that process, humane or not. I do not have any innate need to eat foie gras, and I do not feel ducks must be force-fed in order for me to eat something delicious. There are many delicious alternatives. However, everyone’s mileage may vary, and I don’t expect anyone else to conform to my belief system. If you want to eat foie gras, awesome, but, as far as I know, my facts are straight. I’ve just reached a different opinion from you while looking at the same universe.

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