Foie Gras Banned in California -- Are Hot Dogs Next?

foie gras banned in californiaWant to get a foodie really upset? Threaten to take away their gourmet duck liver, and they'll be ranting and raging in no time. I saw it happen in Chicago years ago when the city became the first to implement a foie gras ban (only to see it lifted two years later). Now, a similar law will make the fancy French delicacy illegal in California beginning next year, and -- just like in Chicago -- chefs and diners are up in arms about the legislation. When will lawmakers learn that when it comes to messing with their foie gras, foodies won't go down without a fight?


At issue, of course, is the fact that many animal rights activist groups (including PETA) and concerned eaters consider foie gras cruel because the ducks and geese are force-fed through a tube inserted in the esophagus to make their livers bigger -- a technique some believe causes the animals tremendous pain. Proponents of the ban disagree, of course, arguing that the process simply mimics behavior in the wild and causes no pain.

Now, I've done a lot of reading on the topic and haven't found any evidence that definitively supports either of the above positions (pain vs. no pain). Still, the whole idea of force-feeding makes me uncomfortable, so my rule of thumb in the instances I've come into contact with foie gras has been to politely decline it. But it's a choice I think should be personal and not legislated by state or federal governments.

My issue with foie gras bans is simply this: They make no sense. If you are going to ban a food in the interest of preventing animal cruelty, how can you delineate between force-feeding ducks and the slaughtering of pigs, cows, and chickens that occurs at slaughterhouses all over the country? I've argued again and again that our entire meat industry needs to be overhauled to make it more humane, healthy, and eco-friendly; but to chip away at such a tiny segment of it is foolish and (as Chicago demonstrated in 2008 when it lifted the ban) a complete waste of effort. Surely, the government can find more important issues and more long-term resolutions to focus on.

Besides, everyone knows what happens when it becomes illegal for restaurants to serve foie gras: they just start serving it under a different name. Watch and see, it will happen.

Do you think the government should ban foie gras and similar products?


Image via VirtualErn/Flickr

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