foie gras

In 2004, Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a ban on force-feeding geese to produce foie gras and a ban on selling foie gras in California.  But the law was designed not to go into effect until July of 2012 to give California producers time to propose and implement alternative production methods. It seems procrastination ruled the day, however, and although the newly formed Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards sent a proposal off to Sacramento in April to try to stay the ban, it was too little, too late. As of July 1st, California will be a foie gras-free zone.

Containing some of the finest restaurants and finest chefs in the country, the Californian culinary world is up in arms. Chefs and diners have been experiencing a drawn-out farewell to foie gras with protest dinners and $150-a-plate festivals of foie gras. Charlie Hallowell, chef and owner of Pizzaiolo in Oakland, was even quoted as saying, “It’s a cheap and easy target for animal rights activists. We should f*cking ban McDonald’s!”

Hallowell may have a point that McDonald’s and other big food companies do just as much harm to animals as foie gras producers, but the other side of the story is that, easy target or not, current methods of foie gras production are inhumane. But even the plight of the geese isn’t the only thing to consider: The New York Times has reported on the terrible working conditions Mexican immigrant workers face on foie gras farms.  

And, foie gras does not have to be produced through use of feeding tubes and other cruel practices. Think of the French farmer a century ago, carefully tending his flock and looking after his birds, pampering them and feeding them the best food so that he could later harvest their livers.  California’s ban took the cultural history of the food into account when it provided its producers eight years to study and implement different practices.

While it’s difficult for any food lover to imagine French Laundry and all the other fantastic dining gems in California without foie gras on their menus, it’s also hard to empathize with critics of the law, who are, in essence, defending animal cruelty and bringing no alternatives whatsoever to the table.

Image: Accidental Hedonist