Reason.tv: The Foie Gras Fight - Animal Cruelty or Animal Rights Propaganda?

Chicago tried banning it. Now California wants to do the same. But what's so controversial about foie gras, the fattened liver of a duck or goose that many diners consider a delicacy?

"Foie gras is universally cruel," says animal rights activist and founder of the Animal Protection and Rescue League Bryan Pease.

Pease led the fight against foie gras in California, which often got ugly and scary, but he feels that it was all worth it now that the ban on the production of the food product will go into effect this summer.  

"This isn't a product that anyone thinks should be consumed, really," says Pease, "except for a small group of chefs and promoters."

Mark Pastore, owner of Incanto restaurant in San Francsico, believes that animal activists, who have threatened him and Incanto's chef Chris Cosentino, bullied their way into a legislative victory through intimidation and inflated rhetoric.

"I believe that the only way to deal with bullying tactics is to stand up to them," says Pastore, who started serving foie gras after his fellow chef had acid thrown on his car and received a threatening video of his family and notes reading "stop or be stopped" from anti-foie gras activists.  

So is the process of force-feeding ducks to produce foie gras cruel, as Pease alleges? Not so, says lawyer and director of Keep Food Legal, Baylen Linnekin. 

"Foie gras is not the result of cruel practice," says Linnekin. "It's a bird that can digest or can swallow a fish whole--a large fish." He also points out that ducks and geese are migratory birds that gorge themselves on food in nature before a winter migration, which is how foie gras, a dish dating back to ancient Egypt, came about in the first place.

The animal activists seem to have won the California foie gras fight for now, but Linnekin says that in the wake of the overturned Chicago ban, he's still optimistic about the future of food freedom.

"Ultimately, choice trumps," says Linnekin. "It should, and it does. Individual rights are the most important things we have as Americans."

Written and produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Christopher Sharif Matar and Zach Weissmueller.

Approximately 6 minutes.

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  • Sparky||

    But what's so controversial about foie gras

    How about the fact that you would eat the part of an animal which has the sole function of cleaning out toxins? I guess eating a small bird in such a way as to cause the shit to shoot down your throat on the first bit is worse, but eating kidney and liver isn't much above that.

  • SIV||

    You ought to try polar bear liver sparky.

  • SIV||

    It's a good source of vitamin A.

  • Tango Mike||

    I have a dim memory that the Inuit do not eat the liver of polar bears as the amount of vitamin A is so high as to be toxic.

  • ||

    Additionally, bear liver is likely to give you trichinosis if not prepared properly.

    I hunt alot of ducks and I regularly make the most delicious gravy giblets from their livers and craws. Bear liver, no thanks.

  • ||

    How does one prepare kidney?

    Boil the piss out of it.

  • R||

    All carnivore livers are dangerous to eat due to the high vitamin A levels.

  • ||

    Except that liver is good for you.

  • Sparky||

    No matter how many people say that, I'll never believe it. Ugh...

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    Calf liver may be good for you; foie gras, I am not so sure. It is almost pure saturated fat. But it is tasty.

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    Saturated fat probably isn't bad for you.

  • ||

    When you heat saturated fats they become unsaturated.

  • wareagle||

    then don't believe it sparky, but that is a decision that should be made by you, not the local food police.

  • Sparky||

    See my 2:56 comment below.

  • wareagle||

    yes, it supercedes your initial comment but that's the thing about first impressions. You gave the idea of being someone who thought Pease and his ilk should rule the day. If people want to eat baked mud, not my job to stop them.

  • Zeb||

    And delicious. And it does other things besides removing toxins.

  • Sparky||

    OK, the prime function of which is removing toxins.

  • ||

    It's not too bad. Fry it up with some diced potatoes and onions and a lot of bacon grease if you're squeamish.

  • ||

    My name is Dagny T. and I'm a former vegetarian.

    I'd never tried liver until I was all grown up and had some issues with the texture at first (too... soft? I can't describe it) so in small pieces and mixed with other stuff was a good gateway delivery approach.

  • ||

    Cajun-style dirty rice is another good introduction to liver, too.

  • KDN||

    Liverwurst. Food is always better when sausagefied.

  • Brett||

    Makes a great sandwich when slathered with head cheese.

  • ||

    Yum. Extra Yum.
    Now you are making me hungry. I have a garden full of green onions so I could make some fresh and put onion tops in it....*mouth watering*

  • killazontherun||

    Personally, I can't stand the texture, and I'm not crazy about the taste. Why bother buying it when everything else in the meat department taste better?

  • Sparky||

    That's what I'm saying.

  • ||

    Because different people have different tastes? I know that may be a shocking revelation, but it happens to be true.

  • SIV||

    Boudin is made with pig liver.

  • Realist||

    What does liver provide that can not be obtained in many other ways?

  • R||

    Liver is extremely vitamin dense, which was its main attraction to our ancestors. Lots of vitamin C, A, etc. (most animals produce vitamin C in their liver; humans and a few of their primate relatives are among the very few animals that can't do so).

    Yeah, you can just take a multivitamin for that today, but liver is still fairly healthy.

  • Ice Nine||

    How about the fact that you would eat the part of an animal which has the sole function of cleaning out toxins?

    Negative on the sole function - by a couple orders of magnitude.

    And its not exactly cleaning Zyklon B or something out of the body but rather by-products of normal metabolism.

  • Sparky||

    OK doctor, let me rephrase.

    How about the fact that you would eat the part of an animal which functions include detoxification, bile production, glycogen storage, lipid metabolism, and conversion of ammonia to urea?

    In any case, it's just creepy to look at a pile of viscera and get hungry.

  • ||

    What's so great about the contractile parts of an animal?

  • Ice Nine||

    Very true, even if it suggests that you've never laid eyes on foie gras.

  • Tango Mike||

    I read Warty as saying "Why are the contractile parts -- I assume he's referring to muscles -- considered better than the viscera?", sort of the opposite that you did. Hard to tell sarcasm from the written word.

  • Ice Nine||

    You need to take another gander at the thread indentation, Mike. I didn't reply to Warty.

  • ||

    The fact that some people can't imagine eating something that gross doesn't justify those people using the force of law to make us gross foods people stop eating it. Oysters are awesome, to.

  • Sparky||

    I would never promote the use of laws to disallow people from eating things I find repulsive. I was merely stating that I find liver repulsive.

  • ||

    Obviously, someone is not a fan of Haggis...

  • Schu||

    It's delicious.

  • SIV||

    If you don't like fatty waterfowl livers don't eat them.

  • Big Nanny||

    If I don't like it, no one can have it.

  • B.O.||

    If you like your liver, you can keep your liver.

  • hannibal lecter ||

    I ate his liver with some fava beans. And a nice chianti.

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    "This isn't a product that anyone thinks should be consumed, really," says Pease . . .

    Except for all the people who not only think it should be consumed but want to consume it and pay a shitload of money to have it prepared for them.

  • wareagle||

    which is really the whole point. Pease thinks no one should consume it; ergo, no one should consume it. Goddam lefty statists.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Doesn't it really 'dismake' their point?

    If no one thinks it should be consumed, then no one will consume it... then no reason to outlaw a practice which doesn't exist.

    Might as well outlaw the inhumane hunting practices used by unicorn poachers.

  • ||

    MSL:
    You are fantastically hilariously witty.

    New Pease campaign: Save the Unicorns!

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    Also, talk about mountain/molehill. Consumption of foie gras in this country is fucking tiny by any reasonable measure. I would venture to say that the vast majority of Americans have never even tasted it. It seems impossible to really get worked up about this unless your real issue stoke a cultural war with people who eat it, which would generally be 1 percenters. What am I missing here?

  • SIV||

    I've never had foies gras but I used to eat a lot of canned goose liver paste you could find in the supermarket between the sardines and the canned chili. I haven't seen it lately.

  • ||

    It's delicious, like smokey butter.

  • ||

    I am not a 1%er and I like to eat it. I like it a lot. It is a sometimes food.

    Best I ever had was served on french toast with chocolate sauce.

  • Yet Another ...||

    Convenient Minority.
    Defend them now, or you'll be one later.

  • -||

    Individual rights are the most important things we have as Americans.

    Close. Right to life is the most important thing. Every other right derives from that most fundamental of rights.

  • ||

    How is right to life not an individual right?

  • wareagle||

    I think - is saying that without the right to life, then liberty and the pursuit of happiness are pipe dreams.

  • ||

    You think foie gras is nasty?? Try balut!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balut_(egg)

  • ||

    SF revealed a truly disturbing food option in the foie merde thread yesterday.

  • BakedPenguin||

    There are lots of horrific options.

  • ||

    There are lots of horrific options.

    The bird nest thing was particularly hideous. I don't see how someone even dreams something like that up.

  • ||

    If you visit l larger Asian food store you will usually find a Bird Nest Drink of some sort. I've tried it - nasty. Though I think these drinks are actually an artificial bird nest drink, so...yeah I'm sure the real thing is real tasty....

  • ||

    For some reason monkey brains strikes me as something Episiarch would eat as a staple food, directly out of the skull.

  • ||

    I've been wondering if I should eat more brains. I should pick up some lamb heads from the West Side Market and see what I can do with them.

  • ||

    Huh, this Canadian apparently couldn't find lamb brains for sale in Toronto. Would you have to just get the whole head from a butcher and go all bonesaw on it?

  • ||

    Probably, but you might be able to find a butcher who'll cut the brain out for you. But if you have the whole head, you could make some nice stock out of it after you've zombied the brain out.

  • ||

    OK, a Cooking With Warty show is just what the Food network needs to punch up its lineup. "Meat and Metal" as a working title? When there wasn't large quantities of animal products being aggressively prepared/consumed with obscure metal playing in the background, there could be cute kitties for no reason that would ever be explained.

  • ||

    YOU ARE A GENIUS. "Kill 'Em All" is what I'm thinking for the title, but it seems a little overdone.

    Also, there will be frequent discussion of weightlifting and jiu-jitsu techniques.

  • juris imprudent||

    Eat, Metal, Jerk.

  • ||

    Heavy Meal?

  • ||

    Absurd Eats?

  • ||

    South of Heaven, North of Hell

  • ||

    Fecal Matters?

  • ||

    Diners, Drive-ins and Dives?

  • ||

    That's too far, JW. I'm sure Warty's hair is only 80% as retarded look as that.

  • ||

    Comparing a man to Douche Fieri is a grave insult indeed. I want to smack his orange face with those stupid behind-the-head sunglasses.

  • ||

    Comparing a man to Douche Fieri is a grave insult indeed.

    That really was beyond the pale. I will show the ritual shame, now.

  • ||

    The Essence of Warty?

  • ||

    The Essence of Warty?

    Again with the precious bodily fluids? ProL, your cunning plans are beginning to terrify me.

  • ||

    EAT IT MOTHERFUCKERS!

  • wareagle||

    EAT THIS! And remember this genre has already been tested by the Zimmern guy on teh Travel Channel. Secondary title: shit my goat wouldn't eat.

  • ||

    My cunning plans are my most disturbing ones. If only I could control them.

  • ||

    South of Heaven, North of Hell

    This is my favorite, I think.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I thought he'd go after the coffee beans the kitties crapped out. Only grind them up and snort them rather than eat them.

    I was surprised that the Corsican maggot cheese didn't hit the list. I'd put that over monkey brains.

  • ||

    Fermentation

    Casu marzu is created by leaving whole Pecorino cheeses outside with part of the rind removed to allow the eggs of the cheese fly Piophila casei to be laid in the cheese. A female Piophila casei can lay more than five hundred eggs at one time.[1][2] The eggs hatch and the larvae begin to eat through the cheese.[3] The acid from the maggots' digestive system breaks down the cheese's fats,[3] making the texture of the cheese very soft; by the time it is ready for consumption, a typical casu marzu will contain thousands of these maggots.[4]
    [edit]Consumption

    Casu marzu is considered to be unsafe to eat by Sardinian aficionados when the maggots in the cheese have died. Because of this, only cheese in which the maggots are still alive is usually eaten, although allowances are made for cheese that has been refrigerated, which can kill the maggots. When the cheese has fermented enough, it is often cut into thin strips and spread on moistened Sardinian flatbread (pane carasau), to be served with a strong red wine.[3][5] Casu marzu is believed to be an aphrodisiac by local Sardinians.[6] Because the larvae in the cheese can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimetres (6 in) when disturbed,[1][7] diners hold their hands above the sandwich to prevent the maggots from leaping. Those who do not wish to eat live maggots place the cheese in a sealed paper bag. The maggots, starved for oxygen, writhe and jump in the bag, creating a "pitter-patter" sound. When the sounds subside, the maggots are dead and the cheese can be eaten.[8]

    I'll eat a lot of shit, but that's the fucking line.

  • sarcasmic||

    Paging Mr Zimmer!

  • Sparky||

    This little tidbit is nice too:

    Larvae, if eaten alive (accidentally or otherwise), can pass through the digestive system alive (human stomach acids do not usually kill them) and live for some time in the intestines.[citation needed] This is referred to as an enteric myiasis. Fruit fly larvae are a leading cause of myiasis in humans, and are the insect most frequently found in the human intestine.[10] The larvae can cause serious intestinal lesions as they attempt to bore through the intestinal walls. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, and bloody diarrhea. Living and dead larvae may pass in the stool.

  • ||

    Well, let's say "primate" brains.

  • R||

    My dad had monkey brain on his all-expenses paid trip to SE asia courtesy of Uncle Sam back in '72.

    He said it's pretty good, but that's coming from someone who likes pig brains, so it should be taken with a heap of salt...

  • ||

    I've had baby egg (chicken variety) before. Not bad tasting, but it is a bit of a mental challenge to not gag on it.

    You can buy it in the US too - sometimes at the same location that will put you down for 5 bills on Sunday's game.

  • rho||

    Eating goose liver that has been fattened by the goose's gorging itself before winter, that's a delicacy.

    Eating goose liver that was fed corn through a tube rammed down its throat, that's McDonalds. Might as well eat liver and Crisco pate.

  • ||

    You will never get the richness or quality of artisanal foie gras from natural goose liver.

  • rho||

    That's why I inject all of my porterhouse steaks with my special marinade of hooker blood and heroin.

    (No, those are not the same things.)

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Pease led the fight against foie gras in California, which often got ugly and scary , but he feels that it was all worth it now that the ban on the production of the food product will go into effect this summer.

    French and Chinese foie gras producers sincerely thank you for their increased profit margin.

  • ||

    It's the same as the condom rule recently passed in LA. I'd be willing to bet Ventura County and Nevada will be more than happy to accommodate porn filmmakers and their money-shots.

  • o3||

    God forbid public health trumps cum-profits

  • o3||

    cuz i think 2 private citizens are the public health and i can haz say over wut they do derpity derp

  • o4||

    better spoof - cuz only 2 peeps in porn derp. >it triez moar harder

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    Just WTF do you have against gang bangs, pal?

  • ||

    God forbid public health trumps cum-profits

    Every porn star in the country could come down [snerk] with AIDS, and it would pose exactly no threat to my health.

  • wareagle||

    what does porn have to do with public health? And isn't it remarkable how none of the camera angles show the guns being pointed at performers forcing them go condom-free.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    More like the condom ban in LA City means absolutely nothing outside of the city. If the county passes a similar measure, Big Porn will just up and move. San Francisco, Las Vegas, even Miami, are some smaller, smut-friendly localities.

  • Ice Nine||

    "This isn't a product that anyone thinks should be consumed, really," says Pease, "except for a small group of chefs and promoters."

    Um, I beg to differ.

  • ||

    I hate living here for reasons like this.

    California government is full of the biggest fuckheads in the world. Not only are they bound and determined to tell me what I an eat, they fuck farmers out of their lifeblood (water) to save a fucking sardine that would readily adapt on it's own.

  • juris imprudent||

    One caveat on water stupidity in this state - farmers who use subsidized water to grow water-intensive crops in the desert. There is a lot of cotton and alfalfa being grown in the San Joaquin and Imperial valleys and they damn sure wouldn't do that if they had to pay a fair market price for their water.

  • Apatheist||

    Who gives a shit? They are delicious and non-sentient.

  • ||

    Oh, I would be willing to bet that geese are sentient. But I really don't give a fuck. If they're smart enough as a species to domesticate and eat humans, then they're smart enough for us not to eat them. If they're not, break out the pate and crackers.

  • ||

    The same goes for any fish, mammal or any other animal on the earth.

  • ||

    Oh, I would be willing to bet that geese are sentient.

    Yes, but who cares? It's not geese that are being eaten; it's goose livers. And livers aren't sentient.

  • Zeb||

    Geese are mean fuckers. I don't care if they are sentient. I draw the line at Great apes, myself.

  • o4||

    and dolphins

  • WTF||

    Fuck that - when my sister-in-law was in the Peace Corps in Africa, she was so starving for meat she ate some chimpanzee the locals got. Said it wasn't too bad.

  • sarcasmic||

    Meat is meat is meat.

  • o4||

    like you. where to draw the line?

  • sarcasmic||

    where to draw the line?

    At dignifying you.

  • o3||

    u just did. lutz

  • o2||

    Well, it was clear you weren't going to, so SOMEBODY had to.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    It's their souls that give the meat that extra flavor.

  • ||

    "Nobody" thinks it should be eaten? What a spectacularly dumb thing to say. Find friends with better taste and more money, Mr. Pease. I will order foie gras anytime I encounter it on a menu. It is delicious.

  • Shmenge||

    If you're in Montreal, check out Au Pied de Cochon. It's one of the best restaurants around. It's menu is mostly reliant on foie gras.

  • MJ||

    Makes you wonder why he expended so much effort to ban a foodstuff nobody wants to eat, does it not?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I wish my liver was bigger.

  • sarcasmic||

    Obviously you don't drink enough.

    *hick*

    Unlike me.

    *burp*

  • sarcasmic||

    There's something I must try before they ban it.

    I do love my chicken livers, though the only way I can eat them is if I cook them outside on the gas grill's side burner.

    Render the bacon, add the liver and onions, some cracked pepper, finish with a splash of red wine.

    Now I'm getting hungry.

  • sarcasmic||

    Must cook them outside or the wife has a holy shit fit.

  • ||

    Why? Is it an odor thing?

    I had fried chicken livers at a sort of upscale Southern/New Orleans inspired restaurant and they were awesome. Now I want to try them your way.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yeah. She can't stand the smell and my kitchen lacks a hood vent.

  • ||

    Soaking them in milk does alleviate the smell a bit.

  • rho||

    +1 Redneck chefery.

  • ||

    Try this Dagny.

    I wash the livers well in cold water making sure no gall bladders are attached. I put them in a bowl and put enough tabasco over them to make sure they are all slathered in the sauce. I sprinkle flour over them and stir until they are all sticky and gooey. I douse them with a very healthy amount of garlic powder. I then flour them in a mix of flour, salt, cayenne and paprika.

    Fry them up in peanut oil at about 375 until they begin floating and the crust is goldeny brown. You want a crispy crust and a tender inside. Yum. There is the southern style livers you liked. I cook em all the time.

  • sarcasmic||

    My old man gave me a deep fryer for xmas so I just might try that. In fact I could get away with that indoors. Thanks!

  • ||

    Must cook them outside or the wife has a holy shit fit.

    And your neighbors don't? If my neighbor cooked something that revolting, I'd push for an ordinance! ;)

  • sarcasmic||

    I live in a rural area. I bet if I was still in the city someone would complain. I had people complaining when I boiled my homebrew outside.

  • o3||

    actually that does sound good. gonna try thx

  • Surly Chef||

    I'm off to clean lobes of foie gras at work!

  • ||

    "NOBODY (by which I mean ME) approves of this icky stuff!"

  • sarcasmic||

    "Nobody" obviously means "no reasonable person", and "reasonable" obviously means "people who think like me".

  • ||

    Ooh,chicken livers- can you still get them by the box at Kentucky Fried?

  • ||

    Only at some outlets. And often only as a liver and gizzard combo platter.

  • R||

    Personally, I prefer chicken hearts.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    I understand how an asp in the grass is a snake, but I don't understand how a grab in the ass is a goose.

  • ||

    The animal activists seem to have won the California foie gras fight for now..

  • Brother Grimm||

    I had some of this when I was out gamboling among the plains and forrests once. Hey, it was winter and stuff was scarce. Since I don't believe in growing stuff for possible food shortages, hunting is perfectly viable. Or so I thought.
    Halfway through my meal a bunch of white Indians came over and told me to stop. Those statist bastards considered it non-eco friendly and when I asked, "officer, aren't I free to gambol?" the responce was;

    Red Crow Feather: NO!
    Mamalakaboobooday: NO!

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "Animal Protection and Rescue League"

    For fuck's sake, there's another one of these things? They probably bitchfight with PETA, too.

  • PETA||

    SPLITTERS!

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    The Animal Rights cultists have finally found their authoritarian messiah of imposed "change" in Jerry Brown.

  • dope||

    tripe

  • ||

    Eat what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

  • ||

    "Pease led the fight against foie gras in California, which often got ugly and scary , but he feels that it was all worth it now that the ban on the production of the food product will go into effect this summer."

    No one has commented on the 'got ugly and scary' part. My money says it got that way because of Pease and his cohorts. And by 'worth it' he is saying violence and intimidation is justified in pursuit of his goals.

  • AT||

    Livers don't filter out toxins. Toxins are what a poisonous snake has in its venom, and your liver can't deal with that.

  • Steve Hindi||

    It goofy to watch people who support animal abuse like the force feeding of ducks to the point of possible injury and certainly disease to then turn around and play the victim card.

    Bunch of sissies.

  • Ben||

    A bag of dicks - it's what for dinner!

  • ||

    Anyone who takes this pundit to be the final word on whether or not foie gras is cruel is fooling themselves (a practice in which Libertarians regularly must engage to prevent that damning self-realization that they're out-of-touch socio-economically privileged ideologues fighting against the interests of humanity and the planet at large).

    Sure these birds can eat a lot, but they are not meant to be routinely force-fed multiple times their body weight. Any investigation of these places shows countless dead birds covered in their own vomit (not to mention they live and die in the same appalling factory farm conditions as most chickens in this country).

    http://www.gourmetcruelty.com/inv.php

    Individual rights are subject to social and ethical constraints in any society and always will be. Torturing an animal to satiate the picky palate of some obscenely rich a**hole (who's probably a Libertarian!)? No thanks. We'll keep winning this one.

  • ||

    John,

    You are an obscenely rich a**hole. I venture to guess that you were bank rolled through school and coddled out of your manhood.

    I always find it interesting that wimp's such as yourself, Pease and other "conscientious" objectors preach no violence.

    Your type promotes this crap because you actually don't have enough manhood to fight, let alone kill, vex and carry food home to a family.

    I know your Birkenstock wearing, Bobo types all too well.

    All I have to say to you is:
    Pass the salt for by foie gras, Sissy.

  • ||

    Some of you guys should just stop making stuff up. An injured duck cannot give foie gras because his liver changes color to green, and you can't eat those. Hurting ducks is self-defeating.

  • James Solbakken||

    Math:
    They are not merely making stuff up, they are LYING!!!
    Leftists have nothing say except they lies, because the only thing that supports their evil cause is lies.
    James

  • ||

    Pease doesn't care about protecting animals, he wants to protect his bank account, he found a very profitable business. What right does he have to tell us what and what not to eat? I'm not fond of foie gras, I prefer the Magret (gavaged duck breast) smoked or baked, delicious.....

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