My Opinion Monday: Why I don’t care about force-fed ducks
I adore foie gras (preferably seared and served with a fruity drizzle of something fancy and a glass of ice wine. A bit like this). On Friday I discovered that the delicacy is about to be banned in the state of California. I was pretty torn on the issue. I do love the stuff but I don’t love the idea of poor defenseless force-fed ducks.
Back on Friday afternoon I imagined that I would fall on the side of the duck. Why?
1) I can’t eat liver at the moment (it has high levels of vitamin A that can be harmful to a baby during pregnancy). I therefore knew that I couldn’t indulge and remind myself of what is at stake (not that it’s easy to get a hold of my seared preference anyhow but even a bit of paté is not possible at this time).
2) The mental image of a duck being force-fed is pretty grim. I figured that in my current maternal protective state that image would win all battles.
3) It’s just plain wrong to choose yummy over duckie, isn’t it?
But then on Friday evening I sat across from my husband at Hue Restaurant and watched him smack his lips over a thinly sliced duck breast (with a tangy cranberry reduction and amaretto and squash risotto). I had no qualms about his menu selection nor about snagging a taste or two. Someone eating duck does not bother me at all. Actually, someone eating any kind of meat doesn’t seem to phase me.
Even foie gras.
Even though I know that foie gras is the result of potentially cruel practices, even though I know I should be outraged at the awful things done to an animal just so a person can enjoy a moment of soft buttery meatiness, it really doesn’t seem to affect me. Why not?
Maybe it’s because foie gras is not a very big industry. As pointed out in the discussion on the CtS Facebook Page by Angela of Foodie Roadshow and Laura of La Diva Cucina, instead of focusing on the two or three small American farms that produce foie gras, we should be more concerned with the factory farming practices that deliver most of the meat that winds up on our tables. It’s a bit odd for people to be overly concerned with this very small segment of our meat industry when there are terrible things happening on a much larger scale elsewhere.
Or perhaps it doesn’t affect me because it’s not really as cruel as we imagine. Angela of Foodie Roadshow also directed me to an article by Jeffrey Steingarten called Stuffed Animals which originally appeared in Men’s Vogue. Mr. Steingarten offers up some scientific studies to show that force-fed ducks and geese are not stressed and do not seem to be as averse to force-feedings as we might expect. Based on these studies and several other arguments he concludes that there is no overwhelming reason to stop eating foie gras. Instead, he suggests that we savour small amounts of this treat, which is what most people do anyways.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that either of these reasons explains my blasé attitude toward foie gras. In fact, my brain doesn’t seem to require any kind of justification. Despite knowing that I should be all upset about the issue, I’m just not.
Thinking back, animal rights has never been a battle that I’ve felt strongly enough about to fight, or even to get moderately upset about. I’m not sure why. It could be because my dad was a federal meat inspector and I was desensitized to the issues at a young age. Or maybe it’s because I get too caught up with civil rights issues and the cruelty we inflict on one another to have the mental energy left for animals. Or maybe I just like meat so much that I refuse to allow in any thoughts or emotions that might tarnish my enjoyment.
I hate to admit it, but for me, yummy wins. Justifiably or not. And if I ever make it to California, I know I’ll be disappointed that foie gras is not on the menu.