THE BLOG

Fois Gras and Faux Food Ethics

11/30/2006 02:52 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

After an invigorating yoga class, wherein I was finally able to grip my toes
in Baddha Padmasana, a particularly grueling posture for me, I met up with a
friend for an almond veggie burger at Spring Street Natural Restaurant in
SoHo. She ordered the herb crusted goat cheese salad with organic field
greens tossed in orange-mirin vinaigrette. Naturally, the conversation
turned to fois gras.

In a lawsuit filed in November, animal rights activists are seeking to ban
the production and sale of foie gras (French for "fat liver') in the state
of New York. It is already illegal in several countries and U.S.
jurisdictions, including Chicago, which famously banned the delicacy from
their menus last spring. In California, too, production will become all but
a quack on the radar in 2012.

And with good reason.

It's inhumane to force-feed ducks and geese for a few succulent bites of
their innards. But on a Thanksgiving trip to Hungary - around the time the
New York suit was filed - I found myself dumping my own food ethics in favor
of the rich, buttery, mouth-watering, tender slivers of mistreated duck,
without doing a single down-dog in contrition.

Unencumbered by my ethics, not to mention the prohibitive expense of New
York City menus, I found myself ordering more and more servings of this
morally compromising treat. And in Hungary - the duck liver and goose fat
capital of Central Europe - fois gras is not so much a delicacy as it is a
way of life. So when in Budapest...

Regretting that I didn't order the pan-seared (organic) duck breast, I asked
my friend about my "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" attitude towards
international cuisine. Apart from the price, I've never thought to order
fois gras from an American menu, but ten livers later I must admit that I'm
generally willing (giddy, almost) to leave my food ethics at home when I
travel abroad. The flesh of a bull publicly slaughtered in an arena just
hours prior comes to mind. Sevilla, España, 2003.

Once home, however, don't I continue to tromp through that ethical line in
the sand every time I pour a glass of generic factory-produced milk or chow
down on an egg and cheese sandwich? While it is cruel to forcefully fatten
ducks for their livers, surely forcing chickens to lay eggs or cows to
produce milk under stressful and unnatural circumstances is just as
compromising?

But just as I can't crisscross my arms around my back to grab my toes
everyday, I don't eat organically - and ethically - everyday, either.