Foie gras not a delicacy for those with delicate constitutions. As per French custom, it's made by force-feeding birds—which means long metal tubes are crammed down their throats—until their livers become so swollen that they sometimes cannot walk or breathe. To speed up feeding times, farmers sometimes cut a slit in the bird's esophagus so they can insert a pneumatic pump. That's foie gras. There are ways to produce foie gras without the force-feeding (known as gavage), but they're not terribly common and in France, foie gras is only foie gras if the bird has been force-fed. If that bothers you, you probably shouldn't eat it.
This kind of graphic imagery has fueled a lot of foie gras hate this week, especially since foie gras was just made legal in California again. There had been a ban on the product since 2012 for ethical reasons, but a federal judge overturned that ban yesterday, citing the Poultry Products Inspection Act, which gives the federal government the authority to regulate poultry products. So, good news: You can now feast on animal cruelty once again!
If you're feeling good about yourself because you avoid foie gras, remember that you're probably doing something to cause another living thing misery right at this moment. Foie gras production is by no means ethical, but neither is debeaking chickens, tail-docking pigs, keeping animals perpetually pregnant, or keeping them in stalls so small and so crowded they they cannot properly turn around. Over 99 percent of farm animals in the United States are factory farmed, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and subjected to conditions that are neither comfortable nor humane.
There's no need to start playing the Ethics Olympics here, but let's admit that criticizing foie gras has a certain amount of cultural cache—foie gras is fancy-people food, a symbol of horrible decadence. It's much easier to ignore something like factory-farmed pigs, because bacon is a food of the people and it's also irresistibly delicious. Plus, foie gras costs more than a goddamn Xbox game and tastes like cat food most of the time. Why would you want to eat that?
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