It started when Chicago newspapers disclosed in 2005 that master chef the late Charlie Trotter would not serve foie gras in his namesake restaurant after visiting three foie gras farms. Not that he wanted to see it banned as California had tried to do or that he agreed with animal groups like Farm Sanctuary, but just that he thought the force feeding process caused ducks to suffer and he would not serve it.
Without missing a beat Trotter's competitor chef Rick Tramonto of Chicago's four-star Tru restaurant submitted "animals are raised to be slaughtered and eaten every day" Either you eat animals or you don't.." Then Vogue magazine food writer Jeffrey Steingarten weighed in with, "I think the way factory raised pigs are raised is far, far worse," and the debate took off.
Pretty soon op-ed editors, columnists and food writers were drowning in public comment--a lot of it of the "two wrongs don't make a right" variety (pointing out foods that were "worse"). The Chicago City Council considered banning foie gras but a bill was defeated by those who openly ridiculed the idea of caring about bird suffering.
The arguments from the food industry making money off foie gras had to do with a consumer "rights." "You can't take away my RIGHT to eat foie gras!" they bellowed "you can't legislate morality." (Segregationists said the same thing.)
The food industry also used the "slippery slope" argument so popular with pro-gunners. "First they ban foie gras, then they ban beef."
Two things were made clear in the foie gras debate: Americans care deeply about whether their food is cruel or not...and they don't have the ethical yardsticks to judge.
Here are some considerations.
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