For the past few months the battle has been heating up in California over whether or not to outlaw the sale of foie gras, a creamy substance made from duck or goose liver. In 2004 California passed Senate Bill number 1520 which outlawed the “force feed[ing of] a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size” as well as the sale of products that are a result of this process, which will lead to the outlawing of foie gras sales in California as of July 1, 2012. The Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS) has been actively fighting the overall ban on foie gras, instead favoring regulations that would require hand feeding and a cage-free environment for the ducks and geese by 2017.
California’s law that will (supposedly) go into effect this July will be the first of its kind, making California the first foie-free-state. Although Chicago banned foie gras in 2006, Chicago lawmakers overturned the ban just two years later. Currently fifteen countries (the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Israel, and Argentina) ban gavage, the force-feeding of ducks to enlarge their livers.
John Burton, the current chairman of the state Democratic party, points out that over the past seven years, the chefs never tried to find more humane methods of produing foie gras. The California ban didn’t immediately go into effect because legislators were hoping that the state’s sole producer, Sonoma Foie Gras, would use the seven and a half years to develop a humane alternative to force feeding, but instead the company plans to end its foie gras business on June 30.
Chefs throughout California, however, are hoping to overturn the ban with a two-thirds vote in both the state Assembly and Senate. Over 100 California chefs have joined with CHEFS to petition the ban. Twenty three of California’s star chefs rallied together on May 14 , to host simultaneous dinners in support of foie gras at Melisse, the Royce at the Langham, Lemon Moon and Animal. Chefs such as Ludo Lefebvre have been holding various dinners throughout the past few months in support of foie gras and will continue to militantly fight for the delicacy.
Initially I had thought that the ban was ridiculous. Why is the French system force feeding ducks to produce foie gras any different from the inhumane conditions that chickens, pigs, and cows have to endure in massive meat-producing plants across the country? With my family strongly opposed to the foie gras ban, it was easy for me to simply take their word for it, but upon researching the topic myself, my opinion has completely changed and now I oppose the ban. While I do understand the point of view both of the chefs who are arguing for the ability to explore their culinary creativity without limitations as to what ingredients they can use, I personally believe that the inhumanity of force-feeding the animals outweighs the culinary benefits of foie gras (sorry mom and dad). While I would not be opposed to foie gras if someone developed a more humane approaching to producing foie gras, until someone is able to do so, I support the ban on foie gras.
Restaurateur Mark Pastore told FoxNews.com that the battle over foie gras extends past the California law, and has become “the new litmus test for political correctness.” Pastore and other chefs argue against the foie gras ban by claiming that it paves the way for the next “too-cruel-to-eat” ban. While he brings this up as a negative side effect, I think that this is actually a major benefit of the foie gras ban. The foie gras ban could be a step towards establishing more human practices throughout the meat industry. If there were better guidelines for the raising meat, then there would be less need for vegetarianism. I personally stopped eating meat in the sixth grade (although I do still eat fish) because of my opposition to the practices of the meat industry, and I could see myself one day eating meat on occasion if I had greater faith in the way that people raise meat.
What are your thoughts on the foie gras ban?