I have listened to a lot of arguments regarding the treatment of ducks and geese in the production of foie gras, and I have to say that I really don't understand the moral dilemma. Animal cruelty is something that I, along with most people, would fully agree is reprehensible, and completely morally wrong. So, with that in mind, I would like to make a case for foie gras.
There is a primary argument that needs to be reconciled before anything else can be discussed. Animals such as chicken, beef, lamb, pigs, game birds, fish and various other forms of game are bred for human consumption. They deserve to be raised in a healthy environment, and treated with respect. For many reasons, a good and healthy animal makes for better food, but at the same time, animals deserve to have dignity and respect shown to them during their lifespan. So, if someone is against consuming animals, that is a different argument as a vegetarian versus a carnivorous person; rather than the ethical treatment of animals that are bred for slaughter.
With this in mind, where does the production of ducks and geese differ from the raising and slaughter of other animals? Two areas that seem to be major stumbling blocks are the force feeding of the animals, and the enlargement of their livers right before they are slaughtered.
Force feeding, a rather disgusting sounding process, is by veterinarian's accounts, creates no physical damage to the animal's throat. That's right, no physical damage. What appears to be a gruesome act of quickly putting a tube down the duck or goose's throat known as 'gavage,' does not cause damage to the animal. Why? Ducks and geese are omnivorous animals, and have throats that expand to allow large food in the manner that a snake would eat their food whole, or in large chunks. So, while we imagine what this might do to our own throat, the fact is there is a completely different physical make-up.
Secondly, ducks and geese have livers that naturally expand during the fall months, in physical preparation for migration. The 'gavage' accentuates the process, fattening ducks for a 12 to 15 day period, and geese for about 15 to 18 days. The ducks and geese are then slaughtered for food, and all parts of the animals are used. The luxurious liver is the prized delicacy, but breast meat and leg meat are also commonly prized.
If you really believe that the processing of these ducks and geese is a cruel practice, then I would suggest that you should stay away from foie gras. Animals raised for slaughter do not have happy endings for the animal, no matter what type.
In speaking with Michael Ginor, co-owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale New York, he says the ducks come running toward the person with the feed. I have seen abused animals, and that is clearly not a behavior I would expect from one.
As, I believe we become more aware of farming and food production practices in our country, I think it might be more important to look at the respect of the farm for the land and the animals.
I will thoroughly confess to loving foie gras, but I realize this is probably the most controversial food product on the market, and I really would not eat it if I felt something more cruel than the sacrifice of an animal for human consumption took place. I know we live in a society that does not eat animals from snout to tail, and many people avoid the subject of killing animals for consumption.
Foie gras from an ethical and responsible producer is a delicious product. Ethical and responsible are the key words; just as they would be for farmers raising chicken, beef, pigs, fish, game birds, and wild game.
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