Friday, June 29, 2012

Crying Foul on Fowls' Foul Organ

Between yesterday's SCOTUS verdict, the wildfires in Colorado Springs, and flooding in the Florida panhandle, it's been one tough week for the United States.

Which makes today a good time to flip over to the golden side of life and check out how our wonderfully tanned brethren over in Cal-i-for-nee-ay are doing in the land of balmy weather and even balmier people.

Turns out, tomorrow is a big day for Californians, as it's the last day they'll get to buy foie gras legally.  Of course, for many Californians, "legally" is a relative term already, but for the sake of discussion, let's say that come July 1, the fatty liver of ducks and geese will be that mystery meat kids no longer will be forced to eat.

Not that kids eat much foie gras anyway, since it's considered a delicacy, and priced accordingly.  But personally, having never, ever liked plain liver, I can't imagine how adding lard to it can turn it into something for which I'm willing to pay $100 a serving.

Leave it to Californians, however, to have developed a whole subculture devoted to the historically prized garbagecan of some fowls' digestive tracts.  Apparently, a war has been waging in Europe for decades over foie gras, and whether the popular way of creating it amounts to animal cruelty.  But here in the Colonies, it's taken the nutty euro-socialist denizens of the Golden State to make theirs the first state to outlaw this foul organ of unfortunate fowls.

So, how is foie gras made?  By sticking a 15-inch tube down the necks of ducks and geese and force-feeding them extra food, usually a mush of corn boiled in fat.  Animal rights activists claim that despite ducks and geese not having a gag reflex, this feeding method is inhumane.  As opposed to actually killing the birds, presumably.

Not that I'm a vegetarian.  I've had duck, but not goose (I feel the song to a children's game coming on).  I understand that raising animals that will be slaughtered to feed humanity isn't necessarily a pleasant job, or something that animal rights folks embrace.  And I understand that there remains considerable debate in the culinary world - known for its liberal policy advocates - over whether the birds suffer psychological harm at being force fed, even if they don't suffer physical harm.

Which kinda surprises me, because I'd have thought California would already have some board-certified duck and geese psychologists.  Maybe they couldn't get the birds to lie on their backs for their therapy sessions at the offices of their Beverly Hills quacks.

At any rate, there is a way to feed ducks and geese that requires no force at all - some farms scatter nuts and other fatty foods onto the ground in pens where ducks and geese can eat and eat to their hearts' delight... or as much delight as a heart can get on a concentrated diet most doctors would ban for their human patients.  I presume the cost of this type of foie gras farming is significantly higher than the conventional tube method.  And technically, it's only the tube method that's being banned in California.  But it seems that all foie gras, floor-fed or tubed, is meeting the same fate come this Sunday.

So fatty liver lovers all over the state are pigging out on the stuff before prohibition kicks in.  They've given up hope that the Mafia will have any interest in running bootleg foie gras operations like they did when liquor was banned early in the last century.

As much as we'd like to chuckle over this inane bit of Californian legislative overkill, however, there lies a much more foul aspect to it.  The humble duck and goose may have won their right to not be force fed for California foodies, but might this new law on their behalf be yet another brick closing in on the freedoms that help keep us from being like birds penned into cages?

Foie gras today, French fries tomorrow?  The mayor of New York City wants to eliminate large servings of soft drinks.  Sounds ominous, doesn't it?

We already can't eat wild Beluga caviar, since sturgeon eggs have become endangered.  Also already banned are shark fins because of international harvesting laws, and the national fruit of Jamaica, ackee, because it can severely mess with your blood sugar and even cause death.

On the whole, those food bans are rather understandable.  But foie gras?  Granted, few people eat it anyway, so its loss in California will only be felt by a few elite gastronomes.  It used to be banned in Chicago, but the ban was repealed after the Windy City's famous chefs decided it was cruel and inhuman punishment for their deprived human customers.

Something tells me this ban in California may stick, however.  Chicago used to be the hog butcher to the world, so meat is in its blood.  When California bleeds, however, it's usually whine from bleeding-heart liberals.

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