Foie gras is a contentious issue, pitting the culinary world against animal rights activists.
Many chefs and restaurateurs argue that the production of foie gras is not unethical and have even referred to the discussion over banning the product in California as “f*cking bullshit.” Often the argument is that there are far greater problems to tackle in the food industry, like factory farming. On the other side of the issue, however, are the animal rights supporters, advocating hard against a procedure that involves fattening of duck or goose liver, most often through the process of force feeding. But even in this polemic world there is starting to be some cross over.
In a recent campaign, animal rights advocates called on top chefs to stop serving foie gras, after a video exposing the practices of supplier Ernest Soulard farms was released. The video, produced by French animal rights group L214, shows the treatment of ducks at various Soulard farms. [Note: this is a graphic video.]
In response to the campaign, Gordon Ramsay, the acclaimed British chef, announced that he would stop using foie gras from Ernest Soulard. While foie gras production in the United Kingdom is illegal, purchasing it is not. Even Joël Robuchon, one of France’s most well-known and decorated chefs, has chosen to drop the supplier. According to Eater, “Ernest Soulard maintains that they meet quality standards, and that ducks roam the grounds free for 12 weeks before a 10-day feeding process begins.”
The video was also used to get Amazon UK to stop selling foie gras products – a move that predictably, the French weren’t very happy with. Thirty-eight million ducks and geese are killed in France every year to make the delicacy, a well-respected artisan tradition in the French food world. In recent years, some producers have pushed “ethical foie gras.” One of the most notable, who fattens his geese and ducks naturally instead of force-feeding them, is Spaniard Eduardo Sousa who has presented a TED talk on the subject.
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