Titanic commemorations bring on a sinking feeling for ducks and geese

Who’da thunk that commemorative events surrounding the sinking of the Titanic would cause an uptick in the demand for pate de foie gras, but that’s the sad truth. You just can’t escape cruelty, and the intervention of 100 years hasn’t brought on the evolution of enlightenment. Seems that every place from my blue-collar Hoosier hometown (pop. 32,400) to New York City’s St. Regis hotel to a Hong Kong establishment is recreating the last meal served on the doomed ship. “The idea is to recreate the ambience on the ship,” said the chef at Hong Kong’s Hullett House. “It’s for people who want to be somewhere else.”

Oh how one wishes that “somewhere else” could be one of the hellholes where ducks and geese suffer forced feedings, organ damage, and unending pain only to be slaughtered for their diseased “fatty livers.” How one wishes that the fine ladies in their furs and feathers and the gentlemen in their impeccable tuxedos could witness in person the torment of too much force-fed grain pumped into the stomachs (called “gavage”) of immobilized birds. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Foie gras, whose production has been challenged in court, is “revered as one of the most exquisite foods in the world” by gourmands. It is but a decadent, gustatory bauble for the one per cent (and wannabes)–one whose price is off the scale in pain and suffering. To her credit, Kate Winslet, leading lady in the Cameron production of “Titanic,” worked with PETA to expose the cruelty of foie gras in a YouTube video. The revealing film footage, shot surreptitiously, is of the very sort that has been criminalized by state legislatures (two so far–Iowa and Utah) at the behest of their ag-industry overlords.

Foie gras will disappear from California menus on July first, when a state-wide ban signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2004 goes into effect. Wrote Wolfgang Puck to fellow restaurateurs in the Golden State,

Others defend the dish as a 5000-year-old culinary tradition, asserting that the gavage phase, which lasts about 18 days prior to slaughter, is nothing more than a “facsimile” of a bird’s natural feeding prior to a physically-demanding migration. Oh, and let’s not forget that old exploiter’s standby, the “They’re Not Like Us” argument:

Most of us aren’t made to swallow animal cruelty whole, either, though a great many humans manage to ignore the inconvenient reality of industrial animal production where their “normal” food–animals like pigs, chickens, and cattle–is concerned.

But a so-called luxury item like foie gras is just such as easy target; it would be a shame to forego taking another shot at it given the Titanic hoopla playing out today and tomorrow. One assumes there were no vegans on board–indeed, the word vegan wasn’t coined until 1944. But had there been, they might have requested “faux gras” as a substitute for the real–and cruelty-saturated–thing.

This post first appeared at animal law blog Animal Blawg, where comments are accepted.

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