Chefs Who Take Foie Gras Off the Menu Are Cowardly Cowards

It takes guts to save a delicacy.

If it talks like a duck, and walks like a duck, then it must be … human? Such is the quacky rationale of many activists as they hoot about animal cruelty, all the while grousing about “inhumane” treatment. Perfect logic from Vegan Central.

Of course, they conveniently overlook that “inhumane,” by definition, can only apply to humans, and animals don’t have the same rights afforded people. Common sense tells us that outright animal cruelty, such as when Michael Vick ran a dog-fighting ring, is, and should be, against the law. But when we start listening to fanatics who want to outlaw everything related to animal consumption, we are sheep being led to slaughter.

While these extremists may be irrational, they’re not dumb. They target areas with liberal populations, self-righteous legislatures, and city councils that think banning things is their paternalistic responsibility. Nowhere have these folks been more effective than the People’s Republic of California, where for years, restaurant patrons have been harassed for their love of certain delicacies. The animal rights folks claim their mission is simply one of education, yet restaurant owners feel threatened and their customers intimidated.

And with good reason, because the fanatics have just scored a “whopper” of a victory as one of the all-time greats is set to be outlawed—statewide—on July 1st.

So what was their “beef” this time? Liverwurst? Tripe? Nope.

Or was it the right whale, whose extraordinarily tender meat tastes even better with the knowledge that there are only about 300 of these beasts left in the wild?

No, the big “flap” in the Golden State is foie gras, which is French for “really, really good food.” According to the non-carnivores, the methods employed in making the delicacy (which has been enjoyed since ancient times) are—yes, you guessed it—inhumane. The duck (or goose, if you’re in France) is fed a constant diet so that it fattens up and its liver swells to several times its “normal” size. The animals are then “put out to pasture,” being sent to finer culinary establishments so they can end up in our stomachs. (Kind of “winging” it here, but the fact that the duck’s liver lands so close to our livers really has a poetic, full-circle effect.)

So what’s the big deal?

If you look at the facts, not much. If you buy into deliberate misinformation, a lot.

Like most everything, there is more than one way to skin a duck, so let’s look at the real picture. Ducks have no gag reflex, so the “force-feeding” is not painful. Sure, it looks bad when you see the video of the feeding tube inserted into the throat, but I saw humans doing that all weekend at the Jersey Shore. Interestingly, both were intaking grain-related products: cornmeal for the duckies, and grain spirits for the humans. Neither seemed to mind.

Speaking of New Jersey, a fascinating point comes to mind. Every spring, birds making one of the longest migrations on the planet stop on the shores of the Delaware Bay. Why? To gorge themselves on the eggs of horseshoe crabs. Since their journey originates at the southern tip of South America and ends near the Arctic, they need a tremendous amount of energy. Unfortunately for the birds, there aren’t too many service plazas along the flyway. Armed with this intuitive knowledge, our aviary friends eat before they start their trip. A lot. Ditto for the stopovers.

Interestingly, something happens to these birds as they gorge themselves for the expedition: Their livers swell to several times their “normal” size.

Given the “inhumane” nature of such an event, I hereby call on all horseshoe crabs to stop laying eggs on the beach. It should also be illegal for birds to engage in any such feeding activity, and offenders should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Enforcement of this policy will guarantee that the problem will be solved, and these migratory birds will never have to deal with large livers again.

They will all be dead from starvation.


Let’s try looking for consistency from the “vegetarian outreach” side of the debate. (As an aside, that oft-used phrase still puzzles me. Is it something like: “Help me! I can’t take it anymore … I’m about to eat a Big Mac! Quick, I need an intervention!”

Extremists have forced more than a few restauranteurs to voluntarily take foie gras off menus. These are victories for the vegans, primarily because too many business people are cowards.

Instead of banding together to aggressively advocate their side of the fight, and shelling out the money to hire the best attorneys, PR firms—and yes, lobbyists—to represent their interests, too many owners and chefs cave in at the first ripple of controversy. Tough to stomach, but birds of a feather flock together. And the restaurant owners keep getting plucked, issue by issue.

What they don’t understand is that their actions only embolden their adversaries. They think that by appeasing the protesters, they will be left alone. Dead wrong. Every victory scored by the other side only reaffirms their moral authority, and they will be back. Ducks today, veal tomorrow, then on to tuna, and who knows what next.

Once the door opens, it never shuts. Just look at Whole Foods, which banned the sale of lobsters and soft-shell crabs, no doubt because of the “inhumaneness.” Any bets on how many restaurants will stop selling clawed creatures when the pot of protest on those creatures starts to boil?

And shame on Californians for allowing their elected officials to pull a bait-and-switch on them. At a time when the state is literally in the throes of bankruptcy, with job opportunities plunging, taxes increasing, and a one-year budget deficit larger than the entire GDP of many countries, the legislature and governor ignore these real, human, problems and target foie gras.

So now, people are getting force-fed (on both ends), but duck livers are safe. Even Hollywood couldn’t have scripted that tragedy any better.

Bottom line regarding foie gras: No skin off my back. It will always be available somewhere. More important, cowardly restaurant owners and chefs who cave in to the pressure tactics of extremists should be more concerned about their own “guts” than those of a duck.