Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Chicago to Ban Foie Gras?

The recent foie gras debate that's sprung up in Chicago of all places has now moved into the city council chambers. The Christian Science Monitor is reporting the Chicago city council is considering a bill that would restrict sale of the buttery goodness in city. The bill has passed out of committee and could be voted on as soon as the end of this week. The ban would take effect 30 days after passage.

The debate began as media duel between Chicago chefs Charlie Trotter and Rick Tramonto and quickly escalated to the two professionals slamming each other in the press for serving or not-serving the dish. (Trotter called for customers to eat Tramonto's liver instead.) And of course, an alderman had to join in the fray. You have to laugh as city lawmakers jump on what they see as a PC-bandwagon without having any idea about the process or the food.

"Our laws are a reflection of our society's values, and our culture does not condone the torture of small innocent animals," says Joe Moore, the Chicago alderman who proposed the ban, though he acknowledges he hasn't visited a foie gras farm and isn't sure if he's ever eaten the food. "It's not a matter of personal choice."

While Trotter has stopped serving foie gras, he hasn't come out and endorsed the ban. One chef who testified against it had his restaurant vandalized. Frankly, I'm with Chef Tramonto on this one. It is a personal choice. Why should the city ban something that people can either choose or not choose to eat on their own?

"I think government stepped into a situation where they're going to start to dictate what we can eat and what we can't eat," he says. He serves foie gras every night at his restaurant in a variety of ways: as a cold terrine, in sauces, sauted and served with seasonal fruit.

Tramonto says he shies away from serving some foods - such as threatened fish - but after visiting foie-gras farms, he considers them more humane than many of the factory farms that produce chicken and pork.

"There are a lot of other bigger fish to fry than these little foie-gras farms," he says.

Activists admit they're going after foie-gras production and not factory farms because it's a "reachable target" not because they necessarily think it's worse than chicken or pork production. What is that supposed to mean? They ban foie gras because very few people eat and produce it which makes it very easy to ban as opposed to making people aware of the abhorrent conditions in which chicken is mass-produced?

More states are jumping on the bandwagon banning production even if they don't produce the delicacy. (There are only three foie-gras farms in the US.) California banned foie-gras production and sale last year and the ban will go ito place in 2012. Massachusetts and Illinois state legislatures are considering bans while bills in Oregon and New York failed to pass.

BTW, the American Veterinary Association has investigated the force-feeding techniques used in foie gras production and found them humane.

No comments: