Foie gras, a 5000-year old French delicacy made of fatty duck or goose liver, is again the subject of debate between animal rights defenders, researchers, chefs, celebrities and those upholding a gastronomical tradition.
On April 15, Kate Winslet, a renowned actress, joined the ranks of numerous celebrities in speaking out against the treatment of ducks and geese in the making of foie gras for this year's People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaign and video.
"Foie gras is sold as an expensive 'delicacy' in some restaurants and shops, but no one pays a higher price for foie gras than the ducks and geese who are abused and killed to make it," said Winslet, PETA's newest spokesperson.
Winslet's and PETA's disturbing undercover video of ducks and geese being force fed with tubes aims to get specific specialty gourmet foods shops to stop peddling the fatty liver. Currently such renowned stores as Fortnum & Mason in London, El Corte Ingles in Madrid and Fauchon in Paris are selling goose foie gras slices (80g) for £25.00 (€28.35), duck foie gras slices (120g) for €10.55, and a pot of goose foie gras (180g) for €34.50 respectively.
According to activist sites and blogs, such as banfoiegras.org, nofoiegras.org and goveg.com, many countries have banned the "forced-feeding" production of foie gras this millennium including Argentina, the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Israel, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Ireland and various states in the United States and Austria, however it isn't illegal in most to import and sell it.
Celebrities including former James Bond actor Roger Moore, Pope Benedict XVI, musician and activist Paul McCartney, British Prime Minister's wife Sarah Brown, pop singer Leona Lewis, Prince Charles of Wales, actor Casey Affleck, actress Ally Sheedy, actress Christina Applegate, actor and activisit Martin Sheen, actress Kim Basinger, and rock musician Chrissie Hynde have all spoken out against the cruel method in which foie gras is produced.
Food stores and dining establishments including Whole Foods, Harvey Nichols, Disney World, Target, Charlie Trotter restaurants, Wolfgang Puck restaurants and catering and many more have decided to not serve or sell foie gras because of animal cruelty.
But not everyone is convinced that the treatment of these fowl is foul. Anthony Bourdain, a chef and writer, has made his own sort of PSA (public service announcement) explaining the "truth" behind campaigns like PETA and the humane method of gavage or feeding. The arguments against banning foie gras range from:
- it being part of a long-standing French gastronomic heritage
- inconclusive research proving animal cruelty (per American Veterinary Medical Association's House of Delegates, the American Association of Avian Pathologists, INRI)
- attitude of "my stomach - my choice"
- all animal food products could be argued as inhumane
- properly "gavaged," or force-fed, ducks and geese are less stressed than their relatives in the wild
French law upholds the practice of gavage, declaring, "foie gras is part of the cultural and gastronomic heritage protected in France."
Should you decide a life without foie gras is not for you, these countries are still producing the delicacy: Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, France, United States, Canada and Hungary but the state of California will make it both illegal to sell or produce foie gras in 2012.
"Faux gras" may be another option for those searching for an alternative to foie gras. Waitrose, a supermarket chain in the United Kingdom and online retailer, sells Faux Gras, a duck liver pate blend made from 50% non-gavaged duck liver and goose or duck fat for £5.99 (€6.79) /175g.
For an even kinder vegan "faux gras," NoFoieGras.org has vegan pate recipes to try made with tofu, walnuts, spinach and mushrooms and Tartex, a German food company, makes a line of Organic Vegetarian Pâtés Culinaria available in a variety of international flavors like Shitake Asia and Herbes de Provence, 50g for €1.99 or 125g for €2.60 http://www.nofoiegras.org/fauxGras.html http://www.tartex.com/en/products/spreads/pate-culinaria.html
If you would like more information on the debates and want to get involved visit:
http://www.peta.org/FeatureKateWinsletExposesFoieGrasCruelty.asp (Winslet and PETA anti- foie gras campaign)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABeWlY0KFv8 (Bourdain's pro-foie gras clip)
http://www.banfoiegras.org/ (Animal Protection & Rescue League)
http://www.nofoiegras.org/restaurants.html (international establishments that will not sell foie gras)
http://www.hsus.org/farm/multimedia/gallery/ducks-geese/world_rejects.html (US human society)
http://www.goveg.com/feat/foie (Roger Moore's PSA - PETA site)
http://www.amazon.com/Foie-Gras-Wars-000-Year-Old-Delicacy/dp/1416556680 (book, The Foie Gras Wars: How a 5,000-Year-Old Delicacy Inspired the World's Fiercest Food Fight)Reuse content