OPINION: Stuff it: Asheville City Council should ban the sale of foie gras

There is no place in animal-friendly, environmentally aware Asheville for foie gras, yet it can be found at a number of eateries around town. It’s high time that Asheville and the rest of the world followed California’s lead, embraced the golden rule and banned this cruel delicacy.

In 2004, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law that prohibited force-feeding ducks, geese and any other birds and selling any resulting products. Given until this year to come up with a less inhumane way to make foie gras, Golden State producers offered no alternatives, and the law took effect July 1.

Foie gras (which means “fatty liver” in French), is produced by force-feeding geese and ducks grain mixed with fat through a metal tube that’s jammed down their throats. This happens three or four times per day until they’re slaughtered when they’re less than 20 weeks old. Known as “gavage,” this practice could more accurately called “savage”: There is simply no place in a civilized society for terrorizing any animal!

According to The Humane Society of the United States, force-feeding can cause bruises, lacerations and sores, and the birds’ livers swell to as much as 10 times their normal size. Toward the end of their brief lives, these distressed, physically assaulted creatures have difficulty breathing or walking due to their diseased, enlarged livers.

“The liver is there to clean out toxins from the bloodstream,” California-based avian veterinarian Laurie Siperstein Cook explains. “If the liver can’t work properly, you’ve got all these toxins flowing through the blood, making them feel bad in various ways; it can harm various organs as well as the brain.” In medical parlance, the liver is in a state of “hepatic lipidosis,” meaning it can no longer function properly.

In fact, the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division has recommended that specialty-foods purveyor D’Artagnan Inc. discontinue certain promotional claims concerning its foie gras — principally that “the liver is not diseased, simply enlarged” and that “animals are hand-raised with tender care under the strictest animal-care standards.”

Meanwhile, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to require that foie gras packaging include this warning: “NOTICE: Foie gras products are derived from diseased birds.”

Defenders of gavage argue that since geese and ducks have no gag reflex, they feel no pain or discomfort from force-feeding. Because birds store up calories to migrate, they claim, gavage is not abusive. I wholly disagree.

During gavage, these sentient animals — who live their entire lives in cages or small indoor pens — are grabbed, held by the throat and force-fed corn and fat. Many die from puncture wounds caused by the feeding tube, from liver ailments or from suffocation induced by force-feeding.

At least two of the Asheville restaurants that sell foie gras pride themselves on offering farm-to-table dining and being environmentally friendly, yet in fact, this menu item is neither of those things. It comes from Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, N.Y., the largest U.S. producer. In 2010, a federal court ruled in favor of The Humane Society of the United States in a lawsuit charging Hudson Valley with multiple Clean Water Act violations.

“The facility has flouted federal pollution laws for years, and we are delighted to see justice done for the environment, animals and local residents, who have all suffered at the hands of this factory farm,” Humane Society spokesman Jonathan Lovvom declared. D’Artagnan sells Hudson Valley foie gras.

For a number of reasons, foie gras should be banned worldwide. And here in Asheville, a city that prides itself on forward thinking , I’m incredulous and deeply disturbed that foie gras is still available for sale.

Many vegetarians and nonvegetarians alike agree that foie gras is cruelly produced, environmentally devastating, unhealthy and obviously not local. Please join me in boycotting local restaurants that serve foie gras and urging City Council members to approve a citywide ban of this so-called delicacy.

Asheville resident Joe Walsh is an executive recruiter and animal lover.

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24 thoughts on “OPINION: Stuff it: Asheville City Council should ban the sale of foie gras

  1. Dionysis

    It would be helpful if a list of known restaurants in the Asheville area that offer this product of barbarity and inhumane treatment can make sure to not patronize those places, but I won’t hold my breath for that to happen.

    • bill smith

      As opposed to what? The entirely humane meat and vegetables in 90% of the other restaurants in Asheville?

  2. D. Dial

    Most likely the locally available “foie gras” is not the real thing. Usually i’s a liver pate’ using innards from various animals. Not the fatted liver of French geese. The real foie gras is quite pricey.

    Authentic foie gras

  3. Dionysis

    “The real foie gras is quite pricey.”

    Yes, and the poor geese are paying a real high price indeed. If there are restaurants around here that use this product from animal hell, I would sure like to know.

  4. bekahdavid

    The Admiral
    Table
    Lexington Avenue Brewery
    The Market Place
    Cucina 24

    Those are the ones I know of.

  5. A Chef in Asheville

    It’s very chic among wanna-be activists to cherry-pick foie as what they champion…to single out foie and diregard the larger problem with our animals that are raised for food makes no sense.Why give all the attention to something that really makes no impact- how much foie is consumed compared to beef, chicken, pork? Do you know what the life is like of a hen that is raised for egg-laying? Ever heard of a gestation cage? The ban is not being enforced in CA, and foie continues to be served. Same thing happened in Chicago years ago. Chefs are some of the most generous-spirited professionals out there. No real chef wants to support animal cruelty. Perhaps activists should learn more about ducks, their livers, Hudson Valley and the broader vision of sustainability and animal treatment that we as chefs advocate. If you really want to make a difference, come down off the foie gras high horse and tackle the entire problem. Banning foie in Asheville will not stop it from being served. We already have enough of the Vegan agenda being pushed around this town which would like to see us all live off of foraging weeds and stuffing ourselves with tempeh. This is a free country, and the government should not dictate what we eat.

    • Lori Oh

      It may seem “chic” to people to whom this issue doesn’t matter. As the laws here stand now, restaurants do, indeed, have the right to sell foie gras. Compassionate consumers can take their business elsewhere. I am grateful to know which local restaurants have this on their menus so I can choose to eat at cruelty-free establishments here in Asheville.

      This topic seems to be stirring up controversy in much the same way that Chik-Fil-A’s anti-gay stance is. I wish people wouldn’t patronize either type of restaurant, but I have to acknowledge that it’s their right to do so. However, it is also my right to religiously avoid them both and to keep my friends and family aware of these issues so that they can also make informed choices, whichever those may be.

  6. True Local

    As one of the few “true locals” who was born and raised here, please let me say: Stop trying to use Asheville to propagate your own agenda. Restaurateurs can sell anything they like, this is America- we are free here. There is nothing “forward thinking” (as you refer to it) about creating more and more arbitrary laws. What this town needs is less government involvement and less loudmouths like you who feel that just because we’re more liberal here than most they can stand on every soapbox they can find. Go back to your own town and tout your nonsense, I can guarantee you aren’t from here.

  7. Dionysis

    “It’s very chic among wanna-be activists to cherry-pick foie as what they champion…”

    Allow me to dispel your obvious confusion and assumptions…I don’t personally give a flip what is “chic’ and am no “wanna-be activist” pal. I have always considered the way this stuff is produced as being disgraceful. Simple as that; it has nothing to do with the larger issue that you comment on.

    Your ‘argument’ is like saying “let’s not worry about little crimes like shop-lifting and burglary, since there are so many other more serious crimes going on…did you know people actually kill others and keep doing it?”

    “No real chef wants to support animal cruelty.”

    Maybe not, but plenty will overlook it in the pursuit of profit.

    “If you really want to make a difference, come down off the foie gras high horse and tackle the entire problem”

    I’ll tackle it one step at a time, starting here and I am not on a high horse but you seem to be given your tone.

    “Banning foie in Asheville will not stop it from being served…”

    So the fact that bans would be ignored for profit means that it is folly to pursue? How about if a ban is imposed, those that break it pay real sanctions?

    “We already have enough of the Vegan agenda being pushed around this town which would like to see us all live off of foraging weeds and stuffing ourselves with tempeh.”

    That is simply your personal opinion, not shared by all. If you don’t like the culture here, you could always move to Wyoming or Kansas where real men eats lots of meat and Vegans are few and far between.

  8. brebro

    Not to discount what he says, but I heard this guy’s Maserati does 185, and I further heard that consequently, he lost his license and now he can’t drive.

  9. Dionysis

    “As opposed to what? The entirely humane meat and vegetables in 90% of the other restaurants in Asheville?”

    If 10% of local restaurants are serving this, and 90% are not, then that leaves plenty of restaurants to choose from. Others can do as they wish, but I would choose to not patronize those that serve it. No placards, no protests, just avoiding those places based upon my personal values.

  10. Dionysis

    “As one of the few “true locals” who was born and raised here…”

    And that is relevant to the topic how, exactly?

    “Restaurateurs can sell anything they like, this is America- we are free here.”

    Really? So restaurateurs can sell the meat from endangered animals if they so choose? There used to be over 100,000 tigers in the wild in Asia, for example; now there are about 3,500 estimated left. You support serving up a hot steaming dish of tiger testicles, if that is what the restauranteur desires to do?

    ” There is nothing “forward thinking” (as you refer to it) about creating more and more arbitrary laws.”

    There is nothing arbitrary about it (defined as “by chance or impulse”). It is specifically based upon needless suffering of living creatures, and to those who care, is motivated by that simple fact alone. Whether it is “forward thinking” or not is irrelevant. If it stops the needless and unneccesary suffering of animals, then that is justification enough.

    Even laboratories are discontinuing the use of animals in their research on disease cures and so forth, arguably a more valid justification of animal abuse than for the purposes of satiating someone’s palate.

    “Go back to your own town and tout your nonsense, I can guarantee you aren’t from here.”

    How can you “guarantee” that? Are you suggesting that anyone that expresses concern and compassion for other creatures’ suffering must be some freaky liberal from “somewhere else” because no true local would feel that way?

  11. Margaret Williams

    Thank you for all for a passionate responses, but please: Criticize the ideas, not the people (and each other).

    • Orbit DVD

      I wonder how long it will take for the listed restaurants to pull their advertising.

  12. ChristopherCNC

    If you don’t like diseased goose liver or how it is made don’t order it when you go out to eat.

    To suggest that the city government use the power of the law to force your opinion on what other people should be allowed to eat is no different than the far right trying to cram their religious and moral views down everybody’s throats. I’m sure most of you diseased goose liver haters strongly object when government is used for such far right purposes.

    It is not the city of Asheville’s job to do menu planning for restaurants.

    Quote:
    That is simply your personal opinion, not shared by all. If you don’t like the culture here, you could always move to Wyoming or Kansas where real men eats lots of meat and Vegans are few and far between. /Q

    Quote:
    “Go back to your own town and tout your nonsense, I can guarantee you aren’t from here.”

    How can you “guarantee” that? Are you suggesting that anyone that expresses concern and compassion for other creatures’ suffering must be some freaky liberal from “somewhere else” because no true local would feel that way? /Q

    This is a difficult conundrum. Who exactly should be leaving town?

  13. Dionysis

    “Who exactly should be leaving town?”

    Nobody necessarily SHOULD, but the option is there.

    And if you read my post, nowhere does it call for making this awful product ‘illegal'; only that I would choose to avoid places that serve it. If that bothers you, then you can order a double portion yourself with complete freedom.

    • ChristopherCNC

      Di, the original opinion piece called for banning diseased goose liver.

      I also noticed you playing both sides of the get out of town issue.

      That was two thoughts in one post. Sorry for the confusion.

  14. TuckerdogNC

    Can we stop eating Veal as well? I mean seriously, folks. A calf less than 5 months old? And Lamb. I live with a vegetarian now for over 33 years, and I still eat fish, chicken, eggs, pork, meat…but I also get it. I choose NOT to eliminate meat completely…like he has…but I also can choose NOT to eat foods that are just basically, intrinsically wrong. I wouldn’t miss cow if suddenly it was banned. We have GREAT delicious meals that are not meat-based. Or, chicken, or any meat. But there is a line you can draw… and veal and foie gras are definitely easy to “forego”, personal choice or not.

  15. marytully

    I’m happy to see the subject of foie gras in Asheville’s restaurants addressed so intelligently. It’s a complex issue, because the argument can be made (and was made) that all forms of food production involving animals are cruel. What most folks don’t realize is that while some 95% of Americans feel that there should be laws in place that protect animals who enter the food supply from cruelty, animals who are exploited for food aren’t allowed protection under the federal Animal Welfare Act. In fact, ducks aren’t even protected under the federal Humane Slaughter Act. Recent groundbreaking legislation in California defines the gavage procedure used in foie gras production as inhumane, establishing the first legal protection afforded to birds entering the food supply.

    Ending the sale of foie gras in Asheville is less about limiting the free will of Asheville’s restaurant patrons, and more about taking a firm stance against egregious animal cruelty. The fact that nearly all of the aforementioned restaurants source their foie gras from the largest foie gras factory farm in the US, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a company that committed over 1000 violations to the federal Clean Water Act, and has been admonished by the Better Business Bureau for making false claims that their foie gras is humanely produced, notwithstanding. Restaurants cannot tout a environmentally conscious ethic while simultaneously importing and serving cruelty and environmental devastation.

    In any event. There are hundreds of local restaurants that don’t serve foie gras. I personally will be choosing to spend my money with them.

  16. ironhead

    I have been to the Perigord, and I’ve seen gavage. It is nothing like what the Humane Society purports it to be. In fact it pales next to what happens at most U.S. meat processors (don’t ever visit a Tyson poultry plant). Not that it matters, since it seems clear that everyone’s mind is already made up.

    There is much cruelty in the world, and as a self-confessed Speciesist, I am far more concerned about the cruelty humans deal out to each other than what happens to animals.

    And I do object to permanently losing access to a delicious food just so your conscience can be soothed for five minutes.

  17. luluthebeast

    They should stop all this silly talk about foie gras and start promoting restaurants to serve haggis. Now there’s a good meal!

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