California's first-in-the-nation foie gras ban: A guide
On July 1, it will become illegal in California to sell or produce foie gras, the delicacy made from engorged duck and goose livers. A classic of French cuisine famous for its fatty richness, foie gras has been targeted by animal-rights activists who say its production involves the cruel abuse of ducks and geese. California's chefs, however, are not backing down, launching a petition to repeal the ban before the deadline. Here, a guide to foie-magaeddon:
Why are animal rights activists targeting foie gras?
Activists say the method of fattening the livers, known as gavage, is cruel to the fowl. The process requires farmers to force-feed ducks or geese with funnel-like tubes rammed down their gullets, enlarging the liver to 10 times its normal size. Opponents say the livers become so big that the birds have trouble walking and breathing.
Have other places banned foie gras?
Gavage has been banned in Britain, Israel, Denmark, Finland, and Switzerland, which is an effective ban on foie gras production, since gavage is the best — and arguably only — method of achieving foie gras' distinct texture.
What do its defenders say?
Chefs say "part of the problem with the ban's logic was that its supporters had mistakenly anthropomorphized the ducks' experience of being force-fed," says Jesse McKinley at The New York Times. Ducks have no gag reflex, and geese "are the nastiest animals on the planet," David Kinch, the acclaimed California chef, tells The Times. Furthermore, many have observed that gavage is hardly less cruel than the conditions pigs, cows, and chickens withstand on industrial farms. "Foie gras was sort of an easy target, sort of low-hanging fruit," Josiah Slone, another California chef, tells CBS News.
How are chefs responding to the ban?
In addition to the petition, high-end restaurants are going on a foie gras binge, serving as much of the stuff as they can before the ban takes effect. Slone recently hosted a "seven-course foie gras feast," says CBS, serving foie gras mousse, seared foie gras, and even a foie gras dessert with peanut butter and chocolate. The only foie gras producer in California, Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras, is going out with a bang, with "clients placing bumper orders at $60 a pound in the weeks before the ban starts," says Nick Allen at Britain's The Telegraph. Chefs are also hosting underground foie gras parties in order to avoid the protests — and even death threats — organized by animal rights activists.
Will foie gras be missed in California?
Yes. California's restaurant community is worried that the ban will crimp its culinary reputation. "Foie gras is a foundation of haute gastronomy," Josiah Citrin, a California chef, tells The Telegraph. "How seriously can you take our culinary efforts when we can't even use this product that's being used everywhere?" Greg Daniels, another chef, tells The Times.