First They Came for the Foie Gras….
Might France ban ketchup and hamburgers since the state of California has now outlawed foie gras? It’s an issue of more than just tit-for-tat when Food Police muscle in on citizen’s choice.
As the Godfather Politics blog reminds us “Back in 2004, the Food Police twisted (California) Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s arm to sign the foie gras ban based on claims of animal cruelty. The ban had an eight-year grace period built in so that none of the politicians involved would actually have to suffer any consequences. Time’s up, and the state’s geese are about to get a reprieve (as yet another industry leaves California) from July 1 on grounds that the birds are treated inhumanly?”
The food police the blogger refers to are of course a similar brand to the extremist eco-warriors convinced they are right to impose their choices on everyone else. This point — which as French News Online reported at the time – was strongly made by Kirk Leech, a former senior project manager for Understanding Animal Research. In an earlier column he described how the animal activists campaigning to halt gavage and ban foie gras are “perfect examples of how illiberal our times have become; private activities, such as eating, are fair game for moral posturing”.
“What’s at stake is the individual’s right to choose what to sell and what to eat. In the end, as it should, the decision to sell or consume (foie gras), must come down to personal taste, and not harassment as we pop out to the shops”, he wrote at the time.
Certainly the poultry farmers of southwest France are angry at California’s July 1 ban and are demanding action. Marie-Pierre Pé, CEO of CIFOG, a foie gras producer body was reported as saying: “We have asked for a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, and with other European Foie Gras Federation member states Hungary and Bulgaria and are asking Paris to urge a EU demarche to the World Trade Organization ( WTO ) because this Californian law violates WTO agreements. “
An unidentified French diplomatic source told La Depeche: ”While this may all seem a bit of a joke, in reality it is a move we need to take seriously. There is no reason why California should be an exception to the rest of the world. Foie gras is an important part of UNESCO-recognised French gastronomic heritage. There is no reason to accept the state of affairs now being introduced”.
Martin Malvy, the powerful Socialist president of Midi-Pyrénées region, home to most of France’s foie gras producers, said: “a country (the US) that uses hormones in breeding calves and grows genetically modified foods without properly determining the consequences, is not one we will take lessons from on the gavage ! “
France’s protest is essentially one of “principle” because “for the past 4 – 5 years” export of French foie gras to the United States has been virtually zero according CIFOG, “basically due to significant US export barriers against foie gras including a multiplicity of veterinary and health constraints as well as surcharges on the product.”
“Our firms abroad are now targeting emerging countries who are bigger consumers” of foie gras, said Gersois Philippe Baron, president of France’s national producers, which is part of CIFOG.
Marie-Pierre Pé said her members were particularly incensed at the harm done by the “prejudicial depictions of uncaring French farmers” by those opposing foie gras. These people she said, failed to recognise that “farmers respect the physical wellbeing of their animals”, adding that the esophagus of a goose or a duck has greater elasticity than that of a human.
“Even if the financial impact is tiny the decision by California really prejudices our image,” said Marie-Pierre Pe.
“Charities protest against gavage but they don’t even know how it is done,” said Martin Malvy. ”It’s worrying that politicians are making decisions without taking into reality, the techniques used today. Prohibition has never produced a good result,” he said.
Mr. Malvy sent a tongue in cheek foie gras tasting invitation to California governor Jerry Brown and a number of state travel agencies inviting them to Toulouse to enjoy foie gras and discover the truth about ” force-feeding “.
CIFOG welcomed the mobilization shown by some “300 Californian restaurateurs, many run by French expats, who have joined forces to defend foie gras.
According to a report in La Republique des Pyrénées “In the ranks of French restaurateurs and chefs settled in California, there is much concern. Denis Rion, owner of the Cigale Café in Westlake, a gateway to Los Angeles said: “To be honest, this is a ridiculous and above all very hypocritical law especially when you see how Americans treat and fatten their cattle. “
Serge Bonnet, owner of Cafe Provencal in Thousand Oaks, said: ” Poultry here is treated no better. This is really silly. It is a political fight which has the effect of destroying our food culture. We’re all going to comply with the law, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a black market develops to meet the demands of clients as they start holding secret private parties.”
Yannick Laborde, a native of La Tremblade (Charente-Maritime) and owner of California Canteen, a French restaurant in Los Angeles hard by Universal Studios, is perplexed: “It’s a heavy blow dealt to the gourmet food business. This is already suffering around here and many French restaurants have closed. Depriving our kitchens of foie gras is another way of driving customers away. And we have no choice, we must obey the law, because purcahsing foie gras is already very expensive , and if you have to pay a fine on top, it will become totally uneconomic. “
Hervé Nedellec, a native of St. Jean de Luz, and chef at the Epicure restaurant near Santa Barbara, is less worried: “I worked in Chicago for six or seven years where an attempt was made to ban foie gras. Restaurants continued to serve discreetly and the ban lasted no more than two years. The same will happen here. “
He may be right and certainly some American food bloggers have been voicing similar views:
June 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm by Steve Barnes, senior writer
Bloomberg reports that there will be easy ways to skirt the foie-gras ban that takes effect Sunday inCalifornia, starting with chefs giving it away — i.e., building the cost into — as part of a tasting menu or other large meal. Authorities inLos Angeles and San Francisco tell the news service they have no plans to enforce the ban, and they won’t cite chefs who prepare foie gras not produced inCalifornia.
Anti-foie forces vow to “come down like a hammer” on chefs and restaurants that continue to serve the stuff.
Prediction: The ban will be repealed, as happened in Chicago a few years ago
Russell Jackson the chef at SubCulture Dining, and formerly of Lafitte in San Francisco was incensed by the actions of the food police calling them ‘terrorists’: ”Californians need to look at the bigger picture and not get bogged down with the rhetoric of this law. We’re dealing with the actions of terrorists. Take a moment to read the law you’re to get, and you’ll realize it’s the worst thing that can happen not just to California, but to the U.S. PETA sued Allied for duck feathers. This law is not about foie gras. It’s about eliminating animal protein from the American diet. Once they get this foothold in, do you think you’ll be able to rationally tell them you want to eat that chicken? Or you want to eat that hamburger? PETA is going to sue and sue and sue and plow people under.”
Story: Ken Pottinger
UPDATE: In response to the California foie gras ban, Socialist MP Philippe Martin President of the General Council of the Gers called for “retaliation” measures. He urged French restaurants not to sell California wines and wine merchants not to stock it. The Gers is among leading regions in the south west producing foie gras. M Martin said all who agreed with him should sustain the boycott “until California repeals the ban. He told La Dépêche the Californian decision was both incomprehensible and shocking and “I felt it had to react, so as not to see this legislation spreading elsewhere and doing furher damage to our producer’s image”.
- Foie Gras Bans and WTO Law (worldtradelaw.typepad.com)
- California Foie Gras Sparks Debate – Discovery News (news.discovery.com)
- California Bidding Au Revoir to Foie Gras Sunday – ABC News (blog) (abcnews.go.com)
- Californians Would Slice Their Mamas’ Throats for a Bite of Foie Gras as ‘Foie-mageddon’ Looms [Hell] (gawker.com)
- California’s Ban On Foie Gras Looms (personalliberty.com)
- California takes foie gras off the menu, but some chefs say ban is a bit rich (guardian.co.uk)
- Foie gras ban has chefs, activists heating up (abclocal.go.com)
- Duck Fat or Live and Let Liver
- Halal – France’s Future Nouvelle Cuisine?
- Bulls, Basques and World Class Omelettes