Experiences From A Fish Yet to Find Water

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Foie Gras Debacle: Chicago and Maine Take Slightly Different Stances

Animal rights activists should be dancing in the streets. Foie Gras was banned starting last month in Chicago, and recently The Maine Animal Coalition, though small-scale, has begun to protest the food by setting up outside of restaurants with signs in tow. Though some of their protests have been as small as 2 people present, it seems the people of Maine are not only tolerant of their presence; they are also on their side. Foie Gras is one of those delicacies made by humans that is historically and culturally weighty as it is a classic of French Cuisine enjoyed all over the world. However, the meal is produced in cruel ways that are arguably inhumane and unfair. However, it seems Maine and Chicago are having slightly different reactions to the phasing-out of the food. While these two states battle the issue slightly differently it stands to question: Can you make people care about animals by restricting their rights?

Some people believe that any attention is good attention. In many cases this can be very true. If you get something out in the open, even if people hate it, at least they are talking about it. Open discourse is one of the fundamentals for change and progress. However, when rights are violated and people are told what not to eat it seems the backlash of this move could be counter active. Just to fill in those of you who do not know: Foie Gras (Fatty Liver in French) is the enlarged liver of a duck or goose that is force fed food through a feeding tube three times a day. The condition is actually medically known as hepatic lipidosis, hepatic steatosis or hepatic encephalopathy. The process of force-feeding is often painful and can injure the animal and can continue for up to a month, though in more animal friendly places these things are not necessarily true. However, Gourmet Cruelty.com, there is a high pre-slaughter death rate for these animals due to the traumatic pain and debilitation inflicted by the force feeding. Some chefs upon seeing how the dish is cultivated, immediately vowed to never make it again. However, not all feel this way, as has been shown by the people of Chicago.

The efforts that Chicago locals are going to in order to preserve their rights to eat foie gras are a bit unnerving, considering the meal is really not a viable food staple. However, we do love our luxuries, and Chicago has made that clear in a lawsuit against the state itself. The reaction from the people in Chicago is not exactly a letter of recommendation for this type of action for animal rights. However, it is encouraging to know that a state government in this country would agree upon such a law which reinstates these animals with a small shred of the dignity they were put on this earth with.

Interestingly, Maine is next on the band wagon with what seems to be some positive response already. Though not all local restaurant owners agree with the focus of the Maine Animal Coalition, many seem to care about the cause. The owner of Fore Street Restaurant, Sam Hayward, only buys foie gras from a Montreal-area farmer whose farm he has visited. The conditions the animals lived under were much higher and higher moral was evident as well, says Hayward. He evidentially witnessed birds readily coming to the workers and opening their mouths at the sight of the feeding tube. This brings the important issue of fighting the right fight. Telling people they can not eat meat will only make people want to eat it more. People hate to be told what to do. It seems a lot of breath is wasted by people who have their hearts in the right place, but can not figure out how to use them. Fighting the farming regulations in the American meat industry would be a much better place to throw down fists. Is there a right way to battle for the rights of another creature? That question has yet to be answered, however in every type of battle it seems that change only comes with a little bit from everyone. You always need the people who do things just to get a reaction, but you can not win a battle with just shock factor. However, it seems today the battle against foie gras in Chicago, is at least helping a little. The more that restaurateurs know about the cruel punishment of these creatures, the more it seems they care. If the attitude that Maine is taking in the matter is any proof in the case, it seems that perhaps Chicago's huge debacle over the issue is at least spreading some light on the once closeted issue.

"Only when we understand can we care, and only when we care sufficiently will we help"-Jane Goodall


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