It seems as if (albeit ever so slowly), public opinion is swaying culinary practice when it comes to foie gras.
In case you’re not familiar with the dish, often considered a delicacy among meat-loving gourmands, foie gras is an expensive pâté made with duck liver. But it’s not just any duck liver: this dish is created by force-feeding ducks in order to enlarge their livers up to 15 times the normal size, all within a timespan that is equally unnatural to the birds’ lifespans in the wild.
Just last month, the Four Seasons Resort in Maui removed the dish from its menu for the upcoming ($350 per person) Opus One Wine Dinner after being contacted by the Animal Protection & Rescue League (APRL). Similarly, 30 other restaurants and 4 major events have so far removed foie gras from the menu after being contacted by APRL.
"Inside the three U.S. foie gras producers and the several in France we have investigated, I have witnessed the same thing: sick, dying and dead ducks," states attorney Bryan Pease, executive director of APRL. "We will continue convincing more and more restaurants to remove this cruel item until these factory farms are shut down."
Pease may have a bit of work on his hands. In opposition to APRLs objectives, famous chefs such as Anthony Bourdain (known for his anti-vegetarian stance) have continued to support foie gras production and consumption. In association with Hudson Valley Foie Gras (the largest of the three US producers), Bourdain even went so far as to produce a video in which quacking noises have been added to the film to make it appear as though the ducks are happy, when in fact they are panting in distress (according APRL, the breed of duck in the video does not quack).
Similarly, in a 2009 piece in the Chicago Tribune (an excerpt from his book), entertainment reporter Mark Caro uncovered an underground trade in foie gras at local restaurants that had, publicly, been forced by the 2006 government to ban the dish, thereby spawning a phenomenon referred to as “quackeasys” (the ban has since been repealed). In his interviews with foie gras-serving chefs, Caro revealed how the cooks will justify the practices by any means, even suggesting that the ducks don’t really suffer or by insisting that the food has a long tradition that can’t be lost.
For now, the practice of force feeding ducks or producing foie gras is banned in 15 countries, including Denmark, Italy, South Africa, Israel, Switzerland and the UK.