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“French Foie Gras banned in California. Yes, we are against force-feeding.”

So California has put their moral foot down against foie gras, or I suppose more accurately against the stuffing of food down a duck’s throat.

Ten days ago California enforced their ban on foie gras, The Bird Feeding Law. As of July 1, anyone who wants to eat the French delicacy will have to fly over here to Paris or hop on a plane to another state like New York where the duck liver specialty is still an acceptable food choice.

California has always seemed to me to be a very liberal state. Liberal in the small ‘L’ sense of keen on renewable energy, Birkenstocks, Whole Foods and, funny enough, the exact opposite of the image conjured up by abundance-in-all Hollywood with its onslaught of concrete and stucco. So I wasn’t surprised when the ban came down. The French were a little more suspect.

One French commentator drew a sharp criticism against California’s moral platform: “La Californie interdit le foie gras par respect des oies et canards. Ne reste que à penser à y abolir la peine de mort.” In English that translates to “California banned foie gras on account of respecting geese and ducks. All that is left is to think of abolishing the death penalty.

Indeed. Given that supporters of the law base their claims on morality, it does seem a little hypocritical to put a duck’s life before a fellow human’s. On the other hand, given the political elements, are these two even comparable?

Factory farming

I understand that people want to protect animals. We are, after all, the stronger species. I was a vegan for 7 years during my teens and early twenties for those exact reasons. I read a book called Diet for a New American by Tim Robbins, the heir to the Basket Robbins ice cream fortune when I was 13 and it changed my whole life. If American are really worried about animals, I think there are other practices of animal cruelty to consider: take regular old chickens, pigs and cows, for instance. Mass industrial farming and production can be as inhumane as anything you could imagine.

French people from the region on Gers, in the south of France, threatened that if California boycotts French foie gras then they will boycott Californian wine.

“California bans foie gras in the name of animal well-being… only I have the right to force-feed the cows…”

Even still, other French people have gotten rather down and dirty about American tendencies to over eat and to “stuff” themselves.

I’ve taken a bit of heat myself for this whole situation. Since our marriage, my husband has gained a few pounds. Our French friends like to blame it on me and my American habits of serving too much food. The fact that he quit smoking just before the wedding doesn’t seem to enter into their calculations. So I just laugh off the slurs.

Apparently, the problem is the practice of “gavage” or the force feeding of ducks and geese which is how foie gras is made. I recently did a mini-documentary on this subject here in France and my impression of the methods used by traditional duck and foie gras farmers changed my American perceptions and sensibilities about foie gras.

I’ll leave the morality up to you:

I have always felt that people should use their consumer power for some good. So for those of you who are ardently against foie gras, don’t buy it. But restricting others who do not hold the same views seems a draconian move to me. Then again, as I said above, I saw firsthand the treatment of these animals while filming my video and interviewing the people who take care of them, and I can tell you for certain that the animals are as unhappy being force-fed as I was in my teens stuffing my face with fries and nuggets at McDonalds.

To each his own? At least it’s food for thought.