Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Modern society is much more sensitive to the sufferings of animals which are used for producing a number of foods for omnivores and carnivores whose population outnumber herbivores by almost 9 to 1. Whether it is breeding, raising, handling or butchering, well established universal guidelines are followed to be as humane as possible. It is another matter that many practitioners in the animal food production sector get away with frequent violations of these standards though humane society campaigning for a better deal to animals always keeps a watch over the industry. One is impressed by the sustained campaigns to change the highly congested cage system in the poultry industry to provide more space to the birds while free grazing cows are encouraged in the beef industry. A not commonly known food from Geese and Duck known as 'Foie Gras", most popular in France is made by fattening the liver of these birds, generally through force feeding  and is considered a delicacy by many food connoisseurs. There is a strong movement which opposes continued practice of this cruel practice by pleading for its ban globally. Many countries like Israel, Turkey and some in Europe have already banned its production and sale and the latest to join this group is the State of California in the US which has promulgated law for punishing those indulging in production or sale of Foie Gras beginning July 1 this year. Here is more on this development which has made news recently.       

"This is the last week for legal foie gras in California. A law to shut down the making, cooking and selling of super-fatty goose or duck liver takes effect July 1. Chow hounds from Chico to Chula Vista have been opening their wallets for restaurants' foie gras menus, gorging themselves like birds before the winter migration. The law's purpose is to end gavage, the ancient practice of forcing grain down the throat of a goose or duck until its liver is grossly enlarged. The law's critics say gavage is hardly more stress-inducing than the many other things humans do to the animals they eat. The corporate operations that grow and slaughter pigs, poultry and cattle represent animal cruelty on an immense scale, they say, about which the foie gras ban does nothing. But the law's supporters argue that even small steps toward humaneness are important, and point to several countries in Europe that have banned foie gras. It is not known how energetically the state will enforce the ban and if any restaurant chefs will be willing to risk a $1,000 fine. Chicago enacted a foie gras ban in 2006. It was widely mocked and flouted and, after a couple of years, repealed. Chefs in California are already pushing for a repeal bill. Meanwhile, "faux gras" recipes are proliferating on the Web. One chef suggests soaking chicken livers overnight in milk with garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, searing them briefly, then puréeing them in a food processor with half their weight in soft butter. It's your basic chicken-liver mousse, not foie gras but good. "You could mix almost anything with half its weight in butter and have a very nice spread," said Mark Bittman, one of The Times's experts on such things".

Out of about 25000 tons of Foie Gras produced annually more than 70% is in France whose population love to have this specialty product during Christmas season. It appears many reports regarding wide scale prevalence of forced feeding seem to be misleading because birds like Geese and Ducks have a tendency to feed more than what they really need and if suitably designed feed is provided ad libitum they will develop fatty liver in no time obviating the need for forced feeding. Some of the producers claim that they do not cause any discomfort to the bird and replaced the metal tubing for force feeding with softer ones. A relevant question is why the product itself is banned if there are alternative methods available to make it and why such ban is not confined to the production technique deployed. After all Foie Gras has a 2500 years of history behind it and it is closely linked to the French culture. As a measure to discourage meat consumption it may be a welcome move, as such bans remove one particular meat product from the dining tables of at least a few families.   


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