Now That States Are Banning Shark Fins, How About This Other ‘Delicacy’?

By Martha Rosenberg
Epoch Times Contributor
Created: December 31, 2012 Last Updated: January 6, 2013
Related articles: Life » Food
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A Foie gras dish prepared at Hot's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach, California. Now that Illinois has banned shark fins, foie gras, fattened duck or goose liver, should be next. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

A Foie gras dish prepared at Hot's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach, California. Now that Illinois has banned shark fins, foie gras, fattened duck or goose liver, should be next. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

This month, Illinois became the first inland state to pass a comprehensive ban against the trade, sale or distribution of shark fins. After the “finning” process, a shark’s body is generally discarded into the water where it dies of suffocation or is eaten by predators because it can’t move normally without fins. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the law at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium where several species of sharks are found. Illinois is the fifth state in the United States to ban the “delicacy,” popular in Asia.

But another cruel delicacy banned in Chicago for a short time in 2006, remains legal. Foie gras is a delicacy that requires geese and ducks to be force fed to bloat their livers, often until they can barely walk, their throats are bloody or punctured and they struggle to breathe. Few who have viewed videos of foie gras production, widely posted on the Web, will eat it again.

A ban on restaurants serving foie gras provoked a vehement backlash from Chicago chefs who were making money off the dish. “Why should someone tell us what we can or can’t serve, buy or produce that the FDA puts its stamp on daily?” asked chef Michael Tsonton of Copperblue restaurant in Chicago. “We live in a free-market society and if people are truly offended they won’t buy it,” agreed David Richards, owner of Sweets & Savories. Even Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel ridiculed the ban and wrote, “Has City Council finally quacked?” Will undercover “quack-easies” spring up to deflect the cruelty issues?

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), expected to be a leading voice for animal welfare, also defends foie gras. One veterinarian AVMA delegate at 2005 hearings defended foie gras production by saying banning it could lead to resolutions against veal calves and other “production agriculture.” Don’t veterinarians take an oath to relieve animal suffering? “We cannot condemn an accepted agricultural practice on . . . emotion,” he proclaimed. At least 14 countries have banned or partially banned foie gras—on emotion.

Chicago chefs so feared ethical issues invading their kitchens--as shark fins now have—they created a group called Chicago Chefs for Choice to fight the ban and they succeeded. Restaurateurs held Foie Gras Fest fundraisers with all-foie gras menus as in—hip to be cruel.

Sweets & Savories featured a Kobe beef burger topped with foie gras pâté and seared foie gras accompanied by pumpkin flan. Graham Elliot Bowles, chef at Avenues in the Peninsula Hotel, offered a foie gras tasting menu with a foie gras custard, mousse, brioche, vinaigrette, lollipop, and milk shake for $238 per diner. A fourth course was a terrine of foie gras snow frozen and whirred into a powder and served with kangaroo, lime, eucalyptus, and melon. Similar derisive and reactionary menus were invented by California chefs before a recent foie gras ban went into effect on July 1, 2012.

Gov. Pat Quinn and officials in the other four states banning shark fins should be commended. If we wait for people to be “truly offended” by cruel practices, shark fin will remain on the menu. So will foie gras.

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  • anonymous

    Industrial Agriculture:

    Industrial Husbandry (Meat Indsutry):

    i.e.: factory farms

  • Julie Trevino

    Shark fin was banned based overfishing. This is not, however, a problem with ducks. The reason the AMA was against the ban was because many members had visited the farms and did not see the cruelty that animal rights activists had claimed.

    We do not ban things based on emotion, period. That’s good policy. Just as we do not imprison homosexuals because our emotions say its wrong, or imprison those who don’t believe in God because we “feel” it’s immoral. Just because you “feel” foie gras is cruel, doesn’t mean it is. People have differing opinions about what is cruel and each farm has differing standards.

  • anonymous

    Perhaps the real issue with Fois Gras is the industrial means of production which abuses the environment and all the animals involved. Is it cruel to deprive animals of every vestige of their natural life process by confining them their whole lives in cramped quarters and mechanizing every aspect of their existence? Mechanized feeding of piglets and calfs, mechanized milking of cows and chick hatching, mechanized slaughter. Regular meat animals are commonly over-fed as well through various means to make them bigger which also negatively affects their health and wellbeing. Growth-hormones are used and antibiotics are used in large amounts which, like the enormous use of fertilizer and pesticides, probably effect human health and, indisputably, the environment and that of farm workers. The effect of genetically-modified organisms on humans is not yet known, but these also affect and damage the ecosystem (see soybeans in wikipedia). In short, treating living things as lifeless commodities, especially animals, is inhumane and morally unethical. And it’s cruel. Is it less cruel when it’s done using traditional methods where the farmer personally rears the animal and takes care of it? The animals is still slaughtered for food, but along the way it’s treated with some semblance of acknowledgement that it’s a living being. Simply because an actual human being has to attend to the animal and care for it as opposed to the animal just being a part of some machine with human attendants just making sure the gears run smoothly. Looking over the internet I couldn’t find any conclusive evidence of the exceptional cruelty of fois gras, though plenty of information pointing to the general cruelty of modern agriculture. If fois gras is cruel– and i can’t imagine how it’s particularly comfortable for the animal– when done using traditional farming methods it’s possible their are ways to do it where the animal suffers less, though it’s still possibly cruel. The same can be said for veal. When taking any sensitive process and industrializing it– it becomes, by definition, less humane. But, all said, industrial animal treatment is in of itself cruel and immoral.


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