First They Came for the Foie Gras

The Food Police are coming.


You and I are going to be presumed no longer capable of deciding on our own which foods we are to consume. Powerful elements within California's state government, the all—knowing, supremely wise guardian of all creatures great and small, are dancing to the tune to a well—organized group of ruthless extremists. You see, they want to tell us that we can't have certain foods, because they feel so strongly that it is morally wrong for us to sup on certain traditional dishes. In their view, eating animals is the equivalent of the Holocaust. Animals deserve the same rights as people.


The chosen stalking horse for establishing the principle that humans must not be allowed to eat meat is one of the most delicious (and expensive) substances on the planet: foie gras.


One of the most powerful politicians in California, John Burton, is planning to introduce a bill which 'would virtually prohibit foie gras by essentially putting the Western United States' sole producer out of business while denying chefs ready access to the hyper—fattened duck liver,' according to the San Francisco Chronicle.


John Burton is no ordinary pol. He is the President Pro Tem of the California State Senate. More importantly, he is the heir to the legendary San Francisco political machine founded by his late brother, Phil, longtime Congressman from San Francisco. Nancy Pelosi, the current Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives is the most prominent product of the Burton Machine nationally, but the real power running the machine is John Burton. If you think 'Kennedy' and transfer the location from Boston to San Francisco, you get a rough understanding of the Burton Machine.


Foie gras is an ideal target for injecting the moral equivalence of animals and people into the dietary strictures of law. It is very expensive, and relatively few people in the United States—region> have ever eaten it, much less know how to prepare it. It is French, and hard to pronounce, if you've never heard it trip from the lips of a waiter or friend. And, it is very fatty. Even people like me, who love the stuff, acknowledge that it is at best an occasional pleasure, not a staple of the dinner table.


The alleged sin of foie gras producers is the use of the traditional 'speed feeding' method, in which grain is forced down the throat of a duck, rapidly enlarging the precious liver in a matter of weeks, right before the duck is ready to be harvested. Opponents liberally throw around the words 'cruelty' and 'suffering' to describe the process. However, anyone who has watched the annual Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest, or other events in the rapidly growing sport of 'competitive eating' might note some conspicuous similarities, at least in the pre—harvest phases.


John Burton invokes a cartoon character to gin up sympathy for the animals: 'You don't need to be cramming food down Donald Duck's throat to have foie gras... [it's] an inhumane way to be dealing with our fine feathered friends." Cruelty aside, Burton is willing to refuse others the pleasures of this particular food because he doesn't particularly enjoy it, personally. "I've eaten foie gras," he added. "It ain't my cup of tea."

Burton's casual attitude toward banning something he doesn't like is not shared by the activists, though. In August, 2003, vandals did extensive damage to a shop, Sonoma Saveurs, which sells foie gras supplied by California's only producer, Sonoma Foie Gras, the same farm which would be shut down by Burton's bill. A month earlier, vandals defaced the homes of co—owners of the shop, one of whom happens to be chef Laurent Manrique, executive chef of Aqua, one the most famous, elegant, delicious, and expensive restaurants in the Western United States. In addition to damaging his house, the vandals left chef Manrique a chilling videotape, showing that members of his family had been under surveillance by the violent activists, for whom cruelty to humans is of no particular concern.

Burton is certain that his bill will pass the California Senate. The House is less certain, and Governor Schwarzenegger has not yet commented on the matter. So, it may not become law anytime soon. Nevertheless, the senior legislative body of the largest state, the national capital of the foodie—nation, will have put itself on the record. The extremists will be one step closer to their ultimate goal of banning all meat, all leather, and all use of animals for human purposes.

Once you buy into the notion that somebody else's definition of 'cruelty' is reason for the state to prevent you from eating what you want, it is only a matter of time before the slaughter of animals becomes defined as 'inhumane' and 'cruel.' The vegetarian jihad marches forward.