Angry Geese and the Ongoing Debate on the Ethics of Foie Gras
The end of foie gras in California is rapidly approaching. On July 1, the full provisions of SB 1520 will go into effect and both foie gras production and sale will be prohibited. SB 1520 was signed into law by Arnold Schwarzenegger way back in 2004. The law gave a seven-year grace period in which Californian foie gras producers could develop new means of producing the controversial ingredient. After July 1, violators of the law will face a $1,000 fine for each offense.
We've talked about the ethics of foie gras with Valley chefs before and the response to that article was heated. Opinions on this topic, here and elsewhere, seem to be split into three camps: 1. People who believe the production of foie gras is morally repugnant and, thus, should be banned. 2. People who believe the production of foie gras is morally repugnant but that people should be allowed to participate in activities that they personally disagree with. 3. People who believe foie gras is delicious and want to keep eating it.
There also been a couple of popular straw men who have been dragged out as well: 1. People who want to ban foie gras are mindless hippies who hate America and freedom. 2. People who want to keep eating foie gras are evil, hate animals, and what them to suffer.
Neither of these straw men is an accurate representation of how the three larger groups really feel. So perhaps a compromise of sorts is in order. Check out this TED talk from chef Dan Barber:
NPR's This American Life did a followup story in which it explored how successful Barber was at building his own humane foie gras. It's really an excellent piece and worth a listen, but the short of it is that, after three years of intense effort, Barber has yet to replicate the success of Spanish foie gras producer Eduardo Sousa . It's possible that Sousa's methods will never yield commercially viable products, but maybe that's a lesson in and of itself.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.