As Short Order reported recently, California's ban on foie gras finally went into effect earlier this month.
Unfortunately, due to the lax wording of the ban, restaurants have found it possible to circumvent the law and serve the item to customers. The California law specifies that restaurants cannot sell food derived from birds that are force-fed, so restaurants like Hot's Kitchen in Los Angeles began offering foie gras as a free side dish. Palio d'Asti in San Francisco encourages customers to bring in their own foie gras, which chefs will then prepare on the premises.
Clever and conscious-less restaurateurs, such as Chef Ray Tang of the Presidio Club is selling foie gras on federal land. Since the restaurant is located in a national park, California law does not apply.
"We don't even have a California liquor license," brags Tang, who researched what laws would and would not apply to his restaurant before he opened in 2006. After introducing his foie gras slider served on a brioche bun with pineapple confit, Tang says that the calls for reservations came flooding in -- as did calls from upset customers.
And customers should be upset. Foie gras is French for fat liver. To make foie gras, the livers of ducks and geese are fattened through force feeding, then the organ is harvested for you to eventually be able to spread it on a cracker or crostini.
Many chefs have no problem with foie gras -- including many respected Miami chefs. They don't believe the process is cruel. And people like Anthony Bourdain are responsible for perpetuating that myth.
In a holiday episode of No Reservations, Bourdian pontificates about the wonderful treatment that ducks receive at the Hudson Valley Foie Gras Farm as an example of how not-cruel foie gras farming is. He even goes so far to call those who support a ban, "twisted, angry people" and "fanatical extremists."
As you can see in the video below, the episode features cute little ducks waddling around cage free and anyone watching the show would be convinced that harvesting fat fowl livers is a slightly unpleasant, but humane process.
The truth is that the process at Hudson Valley doesn't seem cruel at all, but this is one farm out of many. At other farms, ducks are placed in cages so small that they cannot even spread their wings or turn around. Their short lives are lived trapped inside tiny cages, never walking on grass or swimming in water. Instead, they swim in their own waste.
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I find this practice horrifying. I'm not a vegetarian or a member of PETA. I'm not a huge animal rights activist. But, the conditions on some of these farms are horrendous. Shame on Anthony Bourdain for airing a walk-through of the exception and shame on these California restaurants for using loopholes to continue serving foie gras. Had I not done further research, I would also be against the ban -- but after seeing some videos of other foie gras farms -- farms that Bourdain neglected to visit -- there is no possible way to deny that the animals are mistreated.
As of today, Florida has not banned foie gras. If you think it's time to change that, sign this petition.