Foie gras, from the French, means fat liver and pate is a "paste" made of a fat liver, specifically goose or duck liver. As good as it may be, is it worth the cruelty that goes into its production?
To fatten up a goose liver, the bird is confined in such a way that its head protrudes through the bars of a restraining pen and it is force fed a mixture of corn mash several times a day.
Obviously it is an unnatural, painful and stressful experience for the bird and often results in heroic efforts by the bird to regurgitate the fluid that has been forced down its throat.
Gavage, the French word for forced feeding, produces a liver six to ten times normal size and typically presses on the lungs, making normal breathing more difficult.
The Videos Tell the Story
There is no shortage of videos, most of them taken undercover by animal welfare groups, and four have been selected to share below.
The one immediately below is from PETA, narrated by Kate Winslet, and is one of the best at showing what a duck or goose is put through to bring a diseased liver to the elites dining table. If anyone should order goose liver, just know what it is that is being eaten and remember the scenes in these videos.
Regarding the health issues of consuming an extremely fatty liver, there is a growing belief that it could be a cause of amyloidosis or the deposition of amyloid protein in various organs however it has yet to be confirmed.
Due to the cruelty of force feeding, the production and sale of pate has been banned in many countries. To date the production of force-fed goose liver is only allowed in five European countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Spain and Hungary). Turkey and Israel have also banned the force feeding of animals.
In the U.S., banning the force feeding of animals is a decision of each state. California led the way by banning the force feeding of animals for the purpose of enlarging the liver as well as selling products that are produced by that method.
Unfortunately, politics and lobbyists succeeded in buying off enough legislators and judges that California has reversed the ban and some restaurants resumed selling it. According to the Huffington Post, we can thank U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson of the Central District of California.
Chicago banned the sale of foie gras beut later reversed the ban since they could not or would not enforce the ban. Mayor Richard Daley reportedly called the ban the silliest law the city council has ever passed. Oh well, if there's a wrong side of any issue, Daley will be there; it's the Chicago way.
The book, Foie Gras Wars, shown above is a good read on the culinary wars that erupted in Chicago when they tried to ban the cruel delicacy. Click on the book's image to review it or buy it.
The first video below is from Farm Sanctuary and documents production in Canada, the same lovely country that still allows the clubbing death of baby harp seals.
The second video is from the Animal Protection and Rescue League and documents their investigative findings at the Hudson Valley Foie Gras farm. This operation is not an anomaly; it is representative of the entire industry. Watch "Foie Gras: A Decade of Cruelty Exposed" and then make your voice heard to stop this horrible practice.
There used to be a video in this spot produced by Farm Sanctuary protesting Amazon.com selling foie Gras and urging everyone to call and ask them to stop selling the product. Youtube took the video down and Amazon is still selling livers from tortured geese. So much for free speech and public protest.
Now after watching those videos, it’s time to be uplifted, filled with hope and see that there is a better way. See, foie gras in itself isn't bad, it's the cruelty of the gavage and confinement that are bad.
Watch Don Barber, a well known chef and scholar who is passionate about sustainable, humane food sources, in the following TED video and see how life can be wonderful for a goose when raised in a proper relationship with nature by a farmer who cares and loves his birds.
Chef Barber's talk, "A Foie Gras Parable, is 20 minutes long but well worth the time, watch it and feel good about the future of food. There is a better way than the mega factory farms of today that are poisoning our health and environment.
After watching the videos, it will be time to make a personal choice to eat or not to eat gavage produced foie gras. There is a better way and consumers have the power to bring about change that will result in a humane goose liver on the menu. Eduardo Sousa in the Don Barber video above has proven it.
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