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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Foie gras: nearly a nasty moment

Part of a dead animal


Over Christmas we were informed by a young lady of our acquantance that Britain had made it illegal to sell foie gras.  This was something we didn't know and caused us some momentary alarm as we are very partial indeed to foie gras.

Triple P does not find all "luxury" foods worth eating, as you are often paying for rarity rather than taste.  We quite like truffles, for example, but the price asked for them is ludicrous.  We once had truffles with our pasta in the Adlon Hotel in Berlin and they actually shaved bits on to a pair of miniature weighing scales in order to price it.  We have never liked oysters.  Foie gras is quite different, however, as it is totally delicious.

Now we have found out that it is not, in fact, banned in the UK, although production of it is.  Very few countries now produce it; in Europe only Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Hungary and Spain do so.  In the European Union production is actually prohibited but there is a typically European loophole (no doubt put in there by the French who are responsible for 79% of the world's production and don't want to lose their growing market in Asia) in that production can continue "where it is current practice".  The French rural code, Article L 654-27-1 (passed in 2006) states that "Le foie gras fait partie du patrimoine culturel et gastronomique protégé en France."  So given that it is part of their cultural and gastronomic heritage they would no doubt fight to the last man (unlike the Battle of Quebec in 1759 for example where they surrendered after 15 minutes of fighting) for it.  Actually Quebec is somewhere else that produces very fine foie gras which we have enjoyed on trips to Canada, although we are surprised that the politically correct Canadians haven't stopped this yet. 


An example of human civilisation


The issue is, of course, that the geese or ducks that produce the fattened livers are force fed on corn mash (nutritionally pretty much the same as tortilla chips and simple carbohydrate bread that is causing most of the obesity in the west) which animal rights people don't approve off.  This is a simple one for Triple P.  We eat animals (because humans are designed to) and we know that many animals produced for food are treated badly (if they weren't, meat would be too expensive for poorer people to eat.) An interesting fact that Triple P learned from a TV programme over Christams was that the consumption of fowl (chickens, ducks, geese etc) by most people in England is very recent - certainly within the last 100 years and, in many cases more recently that than.  This is because, before battery farming, it was simply too expensive for most people to afford chicken.  Now it is a cheap meat.  We do buy free range eggs, but that is because they taste better. We are not so fussy about the source of our bacon and sausages, however.  it is difficult, if not impossible, in most cases, to know what conditions animals are reared in.  As for geese; we hate geese and have been attacked by them several times so we are quite happy for them to suffer to produce foie gras.  We hate cows too, which is why we eat a lot of beef.  Actually, we have always found sheep a bit sinister.    We have seen films of cows being slaughtered and geese being force fed and it doesn't for a minute stop us wanting to eat them.  It does some people and that is fine but we are afraid that we just don't care about the fate of food animals.

It seems to me that you have to be all or nothing on this issue.  Either you eat meat or you don't (and if you don't you shouldn't wear leather either).  As we do, we do not differentiate as to how that meat is produced. We will continue to eat foie gras even though there is an increasing celebrity-led movement in the UK to ban it from our restaurants.  The French would no doubt argue (as does our Parisian friend N) that the production of foie gras, being a modification to the natural order of things for the purpose of taste, is a sign of civilisation not barbarism and we would have to agree.  Certainly the geese have a hard time of it but so do many of the animals that we harvest for our various purposes. Exploitation of animals is part of the natural order of things. That is why humans run the planet and geese don't.

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