The Foie Gras Ban in California: Helping Us Move Forward

Chefs who are opposed to the foie gras ban that is scheduled to take effect on July 1st of this year will have to learn to live with it.

The foie gras ban was approved in California back in 2004, set to take effect seven years later.

In a last-ditch effort to repeal the ban, the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards, or CHEFS came to speak out against the ban. Among these 100 chefs that have petitioned to terminate the ban are celebrity chefs such as Michael Chiarello and Tyler Florence. They propose alternatives to the ban on the basis that simply “regulating” the industry will “reform farming practices around the world.” They claim that the ban will create a black market for duck liver.

No lawmaker has offered to sponsor the opponents to the ban, and the California Legislature doesn’t feel it needs to focus its’ time and attention on their cause.

In one sense, it appears that the proposed resolution of this issue would be great for farm animal welfare. Restaurant chefs are actually concerned enough to find solutions that would enforce that their ingredients are produced through humane and ethical treatment, which could possibly set a precedent for all animal products in the restaurant business.

Unfortunately, the method of foie gras production is inherently unethical. The liver of the duck must be intentionally fattened in order to produce the delicacy. The Humane Society’s president, Wayne Pacelle, argues that “forcing them to eat more than they want is the problem,” and that the “humane” alternatives offered by CHEFS will not offer much resolve.

Several countries throughout Europe do not allow foie gras sale or production and Israel has banned force-feeding for foie gras (Wolfgang Puck says he supports this).

Nate Ballard, spokesman for CHEFS, compares the ban to prohibition in this country, insinuating that it will only produce negative effects.

We can look back on prohibition and certainly understand the criminal consequences and effects of banning liquor. But drawing a relationship between liquor and intentionally engorged pieces of animal flesh is misleading. People are able to distinguish a difference between a manufactured commodity and a morally questionable practice. I will have to remind the opponents that there was a time when other humans were unnaturally confined and used to another’s advantage, and we were able to recognize the unethical rationality of such a practice.

There is no need to continue an unnatural process in food production. The chefs and restaurant owners who are opposed to the ban should be ashamed of themselves; their industry is constantly changing and adapting, with new culinary inventions and techniques appearing every day. Yet they are holding onto an ingredient that inevitably hails from the dark ages of food production.  Their goals should include the intent to move forward with culinary arts and food production, so that in the future, our ingredients will remain sustainable and natural. As consumers, we should only support those chefs with these innovative and intellectually stimulating goals in mind, so that we ourselves don’t simply turn into fatty pieces of meat.


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