Chicago has just become the first city in the country to ban the sale of foie gras. In the wake of this progressive legislation, a media controversy is now swirling around some chefs who are declaring their intention to serve the fatty liver from force-fed ducks and geese in spite of the law. But in their short-sighted indignation, they are forgetting that the new regulation was passed for the simplest and very best of reasons-the production of foie gras is cruel.
"Ban foie gras, and what's next?" the chefs ask. All animal products involve cruelty; will veal be banned? Or eggs from factory-farmed hens?
The fact that cruelty is widespread shouldn't be used as an excuse to stop the elimination of at least some of it. Chicago joins the U.K., Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Israel in banning foie gras-not because its production is the only abusive farming practice, but because it is particularly egregious. For the same reason, foie gras production and sales must be phased out by 2012 in California, thanks to a bill passed in 2004, and similar legislation has been introduced in Massachusetts, Illinois and New York.
The recipe for foie gras is this: Take ducks and geese. Shove a pipe down their esophagi and pump them so full of corn mush that their livers expand to 10 times the normal size. Deal with internal hemorrhaging, ripped esophagi, fungal and bacterial infections, and a brain ailment call hepatic encephalopathy. Slaughter birds. Sell diseased liver for exorbitant prices.
Investigations at every foie gras farm in the United States and throughout Europe have documented sick, dead and dying animals, some with holes in their necks from injuries caused by pipes. One investigation in New York state found ducks with bloody beaks and their wings twisted together, jammed into wire cages. At another farm, birds dangled from wires as blood spilled from their neck wounds onto live birds beneath them.
Anyone with an opinion on this legislation should be forced, like the Chicago City Council, to see what it is they're discussing. Thankfully, some intrepid activists have documented the two U.S. foie gras farms, and Sir Roger Moore narrated a video that shows what they found, which you can view here.
We don't need any part of this horror. Other than the farmers themselves, the people attempting to justify it have never seen it. The Chicago City Council members are not any more concerned about animal welfare than anyone else--they're individuals who, like 96 percent of Americans, oppose cruelty to animals and probably never thought they'd be banning a menu item. They should be applauded for their courage in taking an ethical stand in the face of pressure from the elitist culinary crowd.
Americans have always been willing to shed the old in favor of what is newer, better and more humane. We can do without foie gras.
Academy Award nominee James Cromwell--whose dozens of films include Babe, L.A. Confidential, The General's Daughter, The Sum of All Fears , and The Green Mile-- is a long-time supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, www.PETA.org.