But Paul Shapiro's latest article in the Atlantic highlights another delicacy that deserves a hard examination and serious questions: Foie gras. Not only is there inhumane treatment of the ducks and geese in the "harvesting" of fois gras, but it is also sick.
As Mr. Shapiro, the the senior director of farm animal protection for The Humane Society, points out:
Unlike fish eggs, slugs with homes, or feet, you are actually eating a diseased organ.
Foie gras, French for fatty liver, is a so-called delicacy produced by force-feeding ducks or geese several times per day until their livers become diseased and enlarge up to ten times their normal size. Most people wouldn't want to eat any part of a diseased animal, but in the case of foie gras, it's the diseased organ itself on which consumers dine.
In the thoughtful piece, Shapiro explains the inhumane forced-feeding process called gavaging that ducks and geese have to endure in order for their livers to achieve full-disease capacity to create the delicacy. I encourage you to please read it.
The U.S. is consistently and sadly behind many countries when it comes to animal welfare regulations. And foie gras is no different. Gavaging to harvest foie gras is banned in over a dozen countries: Argentina, six provinces in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the U.K.
There are small strides being made in the U.S., but hardly comparable to a ban. Celebrity chefs, such as Charlie Trotter and Wolfgang Puck, have boycotted the use of foie gras. And California -- our country's first state-wide ban -- goes into effect in 2012.
Chicago's city council unfortunately overturned a nearly unanimous ban on foie gras after outcry from restaurant owners and anti-regulation groups.
So I encourage folks to do what you can in your communitities. Speak out to restaurant owners, vendors and grocers about you distaste for the recipe of slow animal suffering that creates foie gras.
Typically, foie gras is sold at high end places, and these types of establishments are very sensitive to their customers concerns.
Please check out "The Animals That Love Pain: How Factory Farming Explains Abuse" and next time you go to a restaurant that serves up diseased liver, have a chat with the owner.
It is time for the U.S. to get up to speed on this issue.