Monday, February 9, 2009

Foie Gras: Crossing the Boundry of Human Descency

"We don't face firing squads, lifetime prison sentences or the gas chambers for saying what's on our minds and in our hearts. We won't lose our lives if we speak out against animal wrongs wherever we see them, but the animals do lose theirs if we don't, so we must." - Ingrid Newkirk

Ducks destined to become foie gras. Learn about Farm Sanctuary's No Foie Gras campaign.

On Friday night, I joined 10 other animal rights advocates to take a stand against foie gras, fatty, diseased goose liver considered by some to be a delicacy, but what Farm Sanctuary president Gene Baur has more appropriately labeled it: "gustatory narcissism."

Our target: Damien Brassel's Knife & Fork restaurant in New York City. The Farm Sanctuary-sponsored demonstration may have rustled the feathers (pardon the pun) of a few neighbors, who were vocally annoyed with our loud chants. I'm not sure how their suffering compared to the suffering endured by the ducks and geese who live of modern day foie gras farms, who are confined to their cages or pens for their entire existence and force fed until their livers are expanded to 10 times their size. It's all about perspective, I suppose.

While I can't get into the mind of Brassel, I think Anthony Bourdain's sentiments speak for many chefs of his ilk. In his book, Kitchen Confidential, he writes, "Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food."

But enjoyment at what cost? With no boundaries whatsoever? Is torture socially acceptable in the culinary world? As Gene Baur has asked, "What are willing to do for this flavor?" Their sense of entitlement knows no bounds. To me, that attitude is an affront to everything natural, Mr. Bourdain.

Thankfully, there are chefs, such as Jamie Oliver, who actually give a second thought to the life of the animal that ended up on people's plates for their fleeting enjoyment. Chefs like Bourdain and Brassel perpetuate some false image of the "good life," but there is nothing good, nothing natural, about the way factory farmed animals, including ducks and geese tortured for foie gras production, live, if you can even consider it living at all. It seems more like these animals have to endure their entire time alloted to them on Earth, until we are ready to slaughter them to satisfy our whims. What is good and descent in the human spirit about that?

As Gene writes in his book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, "Critics of animal welfare reform always ask "Where will it end? What's next?" Those are exactly the questions I ask about unnecessarily cruel treatment of animals. Where does that end?"

Please use this web form to contact Knife & Fork, and tell them you will not patronize their restaurant until they permanently remove foie gras from their menu.
Learn about ACT, Farm Sanctuary's Advocacy Campaign Team.

Some lucky ducks and geese at Farm Sanctuary's Watkins Glen, NY, shelter, enjoying a swim at the pond and socializing freely. Some 500,000 ducks are killed each year for foie gras in the U.S. and in Canada, respectively, according to Farm Sanctuary.

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