28 July 2011

Cashing in on cruelty: New cafe makes news with foie gras doughnuts

Do or Dine, a hipster restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, may be only a few weeks old, but one of its dishes has already set the foodie world abuzz. The item? Eleven-dollar jelly doughnuts filled with the diseased livers of force-fed geese or ducks, otherwise known as foie gras.

The cruelties of foie gras production are widely known (click here to see a short, informative video), which is why it was no surprise when Annie Hartnett, a vegan animal rights blogger for Change.org, started a petition asking Do or Dine to stop serving the nasty substance.

Ironically (and to the delight of many ethically immature gastronomes) the publicity garnered by the petition has sparked interest in the doughnuts as well as some backlash against those who dare to oppose the torture of animals. A headline on a GrubStreet.com story about the controversy snidely refers to "animal rights nut jobs," and there has even been a counter-petition created in defense of the foie gras-stuffed pastry.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, Justin Warner, one of Do or Dine's four young co-owners, claims that "the campaign is putting us in the spotlight. When's there's a petition against something, like there is with us, people want to buy it more."

The "unrepentant" Warner goes on to say that "This [foie gras] is a fine food. I'm in the restaurant business, and because it is a fine food gastronomically, maybe not ethically, it is my job is to bring this great food to a great neighbourhood."

Evidently, Warner's delayed moral development leaves him unable to grasp the connection between ethics and gastronomy.

A quick course in moral development theory:
  • At the lower stage of moral development, typically seen in children, right behavior is defined by whatever is in one's best interest (as in, fois gras tastes good and selling it makes me money), and those at this stage show limited interest in the needs of others (as in, the suffering of other beings doesn't matter). 
  • At the highest stage of moral development, right behavior is defined by one's conscience in accord with ethical principles that appeal to one's sense of logical comprehensiveness, universality, and consistency (as in, I can no longer take pleasure in or profit from an act that inflicts cruelty on others).
Warner and his buddies have also failed to notice that some of the most famous names in the world of "fine food" have stopped using fois gras on ethical grounds. For example, in 2007 uber-chef Wolfgang Puck banned fois gras from all his restaurants. The influential French chef, Albert Roux, has condemned foie gras production as inhumane, as has Chicago celebrity chef Charlie Trotter.

This passage from the book The Foie Gras Wars, quoting Trotter, is telling:
"'We have these romantic visions of 50, 70 years ago when a single large and fatted goose would be in a box and a person would...caress the animal and hold the food up and let them eat as much as they wanted.... But we don’t do it that way now. It’s done in a massproduced farming style where literally there’s tubes being jammed down their throats. We have cases of ripped esophaguses, chipped and broken beaks and ripped feet. Here’s an animal that’s just being pumped up as quickly as possible. If they were just eating as much as they could eat and that happened, that would be one thing. But when you’re jamming something down their throat and they’re clearly suffering…' His voice trailed off."
Here's one chef who made the connection between the "great food" he wanted to serve and the grievous plight of the animals used to produce that food. If he could see the moral incongruity, then there's certainly hope for the guys at Do or Dine. For the animals' sake, may their realization come sooner rather than later.

Elizabeth Gordon | Facebook
Elizabeth is an Asian-Appalachian writer, activist, and college professor living in north central Massachusetts. Once an avowed carnivore, she was a vegetarian for 15 years before making the conversion to veganism. She is passionate about trying to live a life that lessens, rather than contributes to, the amount of cruelty and suffering in this world. Follow Elizabeth on her Vegosphere blog and Facebook page.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/sofiagk *Picture does not depict foie gras doughnuts