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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