Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rant: The Foie Gras Hypocrisy

The Foie Gras Hypocrisy

In 2010 the production of foie gras by “cruel means” in the State of California will be illegal. New York is passing similar legislation, essentially eliminating the foie gras industry outside of France. The theory behind the law being that the perceived force-feeding of geese to obtain the fatty liver necessary for foie gras is cruel.

This may be true. It may not. That’s not the problem.

At the core of this law is a fundamental hypocrisy that abides in political correct meat eaters—that at the end of the day one kind of dead animal is better than another. These are the same folks who ban the sale and consumption of horse meat in America. Some of these folks are vegetarians and more power to them. Opposing the slaughter of animals for food is a rational moral stance built upon the underlying premise that animals should not be killed for food. But many opponents of foie gras are the same folks who proudly proclaim they only eat Niman Ranch meat or Hoffman Farms chickens—that somehow because their food animals were raised “humanely” that makes it okay that the animals were brutally slaughtered for consumption.

A dead animal is a dead animal and limiting an animal’s suffering doesn’t change the end result. You either believe animals should be killed for food or not. End of story.

There are a multitude of reasons that one should eat meat from humane, organic, and sustainable farmers—but it has nothing to do with humane treatment. Good meat tastes better and is better for you. A Hoffman farms chicken is infinitely more nuanced in flavor and texture than its factory-farmed counterpart. Grass-fed beef contains less cholesterol and is loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs from free-range vegetarian fed hens have beautiful orange yolks, less cholesterol, and more nutrients than the 7-11 variety. And quite simply they taste better.

Artisan-produced meats are also more likely to be processed with attention and care, using minimal preservatives and maintaining the integrity of cuts and chops with an attentive eye to the presence of fat, gristle, and marbling.

Organic meats are also better for the environment—less energy is used in transporting, processing, and treating the animals. Animal waste is less concentrated (Harris Ranch, anyone?) and the animals play a natural role in maintaining the ecosystem through erosion control, fire prevention, and natural fertilization.

But don’t try to say that the animal on your plate is any better off because it spent a year enjoying a bit of open space and better food—that’s inane. You might as well support the death penalty as long as the inmates are treated well and killed without pain. A dead person is still a dead person—and we aren’t even given the bonus of being allowed to eat dead people. Beliefs about the humanity of either process might make you feel better, but it doesn’t wash the blood away from your hands (or your plate).

To what results can those obsessed with the welfare of dead animals point? How about the ban on horse meat sale and consumption? That must have ended the slaughter of horses for profit in the United States.

As of 2006, the U.S. is the largest exporter of horse meat in the world. There are horses to be killed and there is a market for their meat. If you oppose horse slaughter you’re better off not buying a horse or not attending events at which horses are used (and often abused) for entertainment or profit.

And what about foie gras? In 2010, instead of the geese being in the hands of small-farm artisan producers we’ll see larger scale farming of “humane” versions of foie gras probably processed with additional chemicals and additives or we’ll rely solely on imported foie gras, further marginalizing the already struggling small farmer in America.

We’re better off focusing our energy where it makes the most impact. Support organic producers. Fight factory farming, which is one of the biggest threats to the safety of our food chain and the welfare of our environment. Shop locally from small farm producers. Pay the extra 10% for the sustainable product. Chances are it’ll taste a hell of a lot better anyway.

But unless you’re planning to go vegan, quit wasting money and time fighting hypocritical battles to decide for the cow who should kill it. Gas chamber, electric chair, firing squad, or lethal injection—it doesn’t change what ends up on your plate.

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