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Can someone please explain to me that the production of foie gras is somehow not cruel and inhuman? Or even that some significant number of restaurants are serving "cruelty-free foie gras" if that even exists?

It seems like every time I end up going out to the kind of place that has it on the menu (never really by my choosing), it is virtually always ordered. But I only now decided to try it (verdict: huh?? wtf is the big deal?), and only then bothered to learn how it's actually made, and now I would kind of like to throw up, a bit.
ronnie c's profile photoChristian Gruber's profile photoKevin Bourrillion's profile photoEmily Soldal's profile photo
I've heard that there's a method for getting geese with the fatty liver required for foie gras without force feeding them, though I can't independently verify it.

Either way, though, I find it kind of gross as well, much to the consternation of the French half of my family...
Why anyone would want to eat the oil filter of the body is beyond me.
I feel rather conflicted about this; it's cruel, though it's hard to condemn one from of animal cruelty over another. Also I think it's delicious, and that makes me a slightly bad person.
David Chang of Momofuku restaurants recounted on his book that he visited the farm where he gets his foie gras and he didn't find it cruel. It seems that the ducks don't mind. Maybe there are farms where they are cruel, but the same can be told about any animal product (including things like cheese).

Also, it is delicious.
According to PETA, " in 2004 California passed a law banning the sale and production of foie gras effective in 2012", so may not have to put up with seeing this on Californian menus for much longer.
We do a lot of anthropomorphism with animals... I'm not saying it's wrong, but it's a natural tendency of our brain, when it spots a "head with two eyes and a mouth" to imagine that the thing is having feelings similar to what we would be having in a similar situation. This empathic ability is wonderful in human relationships but it can fool us sometimes.

In the case of Foie Gras I believe it does. Not that I condone killing animals to eat them (I don't reject it either, I'm not a vegetarian) but I don't think that because gavage feels more cruel it necessarily is.

(Side note: only on Google+ can I have such a discussion on a touchy topic without spiralling into Godwin's law. :))
ronnie c
The serious eats article covers it pretty well. There are two companies that provide foie gras for US consumption: Hudson Valley and Roguie. Both of which are distinctly not factory farming conditions. In fact, they are open to visitors and welcome outside scrutiny to prove that they are running a humane farm. The ducks have a lot more room to roam than in a typical farm, they're kept cage free, they're unstressed and happy, workers who have low duck mortality rates are given bonuses, and they're fed by hand. The ducks are not ill, they tolerate the feeding without complaint, they're healthy, clean, and completely unfazed by the process.

In short, the process of making foie gras in the US is pretty much the best life a duck destined for slaughter can have. It makes for an easy target because it affects a small number of people, it's rare, it's expensive, and it's got strong associations with gluttony and indulgence. However, the briefest of inquiries into the life of a factory farm chicken or duck would lead you to the conclusion that eating chicken mcnuggets or KFC is a far more heinous crime. When is California going to ban farming practices that requires birds be debeaked because they're crammed into dirty, disease ridden hovels where they're so miserable that they will literally peck themselves to death?
Wow, I've gotten more of a wealth of diversity of facts and arguments than I hoped for! Thanks everyone!
I did love that TED talk - it highlighted for me that there are usually ways, without losing quality or increasing cost by anything but small fractions, of getting things with far less cruelty and/or ick in this world. It just takes some effort to bootstrap.
Okay, here's where I'm at. And note, I'm not judging you, reader, for your eating choices.

1. Yep, there's a ton of sick shit that goes on in the production of most of our meat products today; ways in which we put taste and economics ahead of any concern for the well-being of the living, feeling animals involved, and it doesn't make sense for anyone to act like foie gras is the beginning and the end of the problem. Granted.

2. If it's true that "the ducks don't mind", and that a duck that's destined to become foie gras has "pretty much the best life a duck destined for slaughter can have", that's great.

3. However.

To me, regardless, there's still something fundamentally disturbing, on a basic level, about the dominant method of foie gras production. Any way you dress it up, we are forcing food down their throats to make their liver get all fatty and swell up to many times its normal size. I don't see how that's ever going to seem normal or cool to me. It paints a stark and ugly picture of humans -- we consider ourselves so far above all the other animal species that we play with their anatomy just to amuse our own taste preferences. It's unnecessary and callous and makes humanity seem self-absorbed and thoughtless and like we have no respect for the animals we consume.

I realize this may sound similar to an argument for wholesale vegetarianism, and I'm standing here as someone who doesn't feel like that's a change he's willing to make right now. But even as a meat-eater I can try to only consume meat from animals that were treated with respect. That would make me feel more human. I don't know how difficult it will be to properly source every bit of meat I want to bite into, though, so I can't promise anything, but don't judge me and I won't judge you, and all that.
This is a sentiment I've shared for a long time, in particular towards pigs and pigglets who exhibit the same intellectual level of a young child. I don't know if i will stop eating meat right away, mostly for a lack of good alternatives. :(
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