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ScotteeM
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I ran across a great commentary in the Evening Bulletin, Philly's evening paper (at least it was when I was growing up there). Foie Gras: It's About Having Guts says it better than I ever could. I hope that more restaurateurs will look to Georges Perrier and decide to stand up to the AR fanatics, too.

I had read about the protests and wished that I could go up and participate in a counter-demonstration. If they bring the AR show to restaurants in this area, I just might.

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I ran across a great commentary in the Evening Bulletin, Philly's evening paper (at least it was when I was growing up there). Foie Gras: It's About Having Guts says it better than I ever could. I hope that more restaurateurs will look to Georges Perrier and decide to stand up to the AR fanatics, too.

I hope you can say it better. That kind of lowbrow recycling of half-truths (complete with a slap at the French -- how original) and snark convinces no one and is as bad as the propaganda put out by the moronic protesters.

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I must take issue with your characterization of that screed as “great” commentary. In fact, I would say it is pretty terrible. He spends the first two-thirds of the piece mocking “Vegan Central” with various silly analogies and offensive descriptions, but then claims to “respect the animal rights groups’ opinions.” Next thing you know, he’ll say that a lot of his best friends are vegetarians. It isn’t particularly well-written either. Right off the bat, he says that “they” – meaning, I guess, animal rights activists – “never fail” to rely on an inapt adjective – “inhumane” – when stating their positions. How about a cite for the proposition that “they” “never fail” to use that term? I suspect there isn’t one. In any event, his argument is stupid. I looked at the Whole Foods press release concerning its decision to stop selling live lobsters, since that is one of the examples he cites. True, the press release repeatedly cites the company’s commitment to “humane” treatment of animals. So I looked up humane. It is defined in Princeton’s online dictionary as “marked or motivated by concern with the alleviation of suffering” or “showing evidence of moral and intellectual advancement.” Apparently, this joker thinks “humane” means “human.” It doesn’t, and I hardly think it productive to mock those who believe that the alleviation of suffering among animals is a principle worth considering as we make decisions on our consumptive practices.

(Incidentally, “inhumane” does not appear in the Whole Foods press release, despite this person having placed “inhumaneness” in quotes when discussing the Whole Foods decision. In any event, “inhumane” is defined by the Princeton dictionary as “lacking and reflecting lack of pity or compassion.” Is it unreasonable to adopt pity and compassion as principles worthy of consideration?)

I must also take issue with your apparent characterization of those who oppose the production and consumption of foie gras as animal rights “fanatics” putting on a “show.” For the record, I have mixed feelings on the matter. I am not in favor of legislation banning the sale of foie gras. However, I recognize that the animal rights position is principled, even if I find myself persuaded by other principles on balance. The worst way to persuade people like me, who see some merit to both sides of an argument, is openly to mock the other side and utterly fail to approach its position with any respect or intellectual rigor.

This guy makes absolutely no attempt to characterize fairly the “other side,” and resorts instead to generalizations and ad hominem attacks. As someone whose job it is to construct and defend arguments (a lawyer), I find this to be a pretty poor display of that skill. This guy strikes me as the print equivalent of a radio shock jock. (He doesn't help his case by injecting irrelevant and inflammatory fuck-you's, like his flaunting of his vehicle.)

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However, I recognize that the animal rights position is principled
I don't think I agree at all. The campaign against foie gras is, in some ways, either misguided or dishonest, and it's certainly manipulative. While the animal-rights folks may oppose the eating of any flesh-foods, they target foie gras as especially objectionable because its production is supposedly especially cruel. I think anyone who has looked into the matter even superficially will conclude that a duck or goose raised for foie gras has an almost incomparably better life than a Perdue chicken. The anti-foie campaign has had as much success as it's had because the anthropomorphizing of the poor ducks and geese obscures a lot of reality, and I think the folks pushing this agenda are probably mostly quite aware of that, but calculate that they can get away with it. They target foie gras because the "foie gras community", as it were, can be marginalized or demonized as rich hedonists indulging in decadent French depravity. I don't think it's principled at all.
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... I think anyone who has looked into the matter even superficially will conclude that a duck or goose raised for foie gras has an almost incomparably better life than a Perdue chicken. ...

Well, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare issued a report in 1998 in which it opined that "the management and housing of the birds used for producing foie gras have a negative impact on their welfare," that "[t]he traditional technique of force feeding has been substantially modified during the past thirty years to rationalise and industrialise the production of foie gras and increase profitability," and that "[t]here is evidence that not only animal welfare has not benefited from the change but that instead it has deteriorated."

(Link to large .pdf here. See conclusions on page 66.)

I suppose that passage, if true, does not mean that a Perdue chicken isn't even worse off. But at an absolute minimum, it appears that this is not an issue as to which any superficial review by a reasonable person will inevitably lead to a single conclusion.

(By the way, this is NOT my pet issue. I found the report above because I Googled, not because I have a stash of animal rights propaganda. I've eaten foie gras. I may do so again. I just object to rabid and, to my mind, irrational rants like the one linked in the initial post. I think they do a disservice to both sides of whatever debate they appear in.)

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The worst way to persuade people like me, who see some merit to both sides of an argument, is openly to mock the other side and utterly fail to approach its position with any respect or intellectual rigor.

This might be the most rational thing I've read on the subject. Thank you.

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I posted the link in this topic in a hurry at work, and I haven't been able to post again until now.

I wasn't intending to debate whether or not foie gras production is humane.

The Hersch was on the money with his comments, and that's one of the points. These self-proclaimed arbiters of what constitutes "humane" treatment of animals freely and publicly acknowledge that their definition of humane is zero contact or interaction between humans and other species. No eating, no owning, no wearing, no fertilizing with animal by-products, no dogs assisting law enforcement or rescuing disaster victims or assisting people with disabilities. I'm referring to PeTA, HSUS, and ALF, among others--not to folks on this list who agree about foie but not about other animal products.

Their protests about foie gras in restaurants and lobsters at Whole Foods are disingenuous, because they really want to eradicate all animal products. Their tactics are not nice. They threaten businesses with protests and defamation. In some cases, the businesses capitulate to the AR groups' terms and are left alone. In others, small businesses are put out of business by protests and vandalism.

How would you feel if you arrived at your favorite restaurant for a special occasion--Citronelle, or Maestro, or Restaurant Eve, or any others--and found you had to walk past a group of people waiving signs and shouting un-pleasantries at and about you, and about the restaurateur, just to claim your reservation? How would you feel if your favorite restaurant were vandalized--albeit after hours when no one was there--or driven out of business because people didn't want to cross the picket lines?

Restaurateurs and chefs: How would you feel if your restaurant were targeted by these protesters? What if you were victimized by them as businesses elswhere have been?

That is why I said I would willingly participate in counter-protests--not because I disagree about foie gras (which I do enjoy on occasion)--but because I want to preserve my freedom to choose what I eat and restaurateurs' freedom to choose their own menus.

I'm just sayin'.

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You obviously don't remember the 'Union' worker protests that eventually led to the shutdown of a washington institution called La Bagatelle

I posted the link in this topic in a hurry at work, and I haven't been able to post again until now.

I wasn't intending to debate whether or not foie gras production is humane.

The Hersch was on the money with his comments, and that's one of the points. These self-proclaimed arbiters of what constitutes "humane" treatment of animals freely and publicly acknowledge that their definition of humane is zero contact or interaction between humans and other species. No eating, no owning, no wearing, no fertilizing with animal by-products, no dogs assisting law enforcement or rescuing disaster victims or assisting people with disabilities. I'm referring to PeTA, HSUS, and ALF, among others--not to folks on this list who agree about foie but not about other animal products.

Their protests about foie gras in restaurants and lobsters at Whole Foods are disingenuous, because they really want to eradicate all animal products. Their tactics are not nice. They threaten businesses with protests and defamation. In some cases, the businesses capitulate to the AR groups' terms and are left alone. In others, small businesses are put out of business by protests and vandalism.

How would you feel if you arrived at your favorite restaurant for a special occasion--Citronelle, or Maestro, or Restaurant Eve, or any others--and found you had to walk past a group of people waiving signs and shouting un-pleasantries at and about you, and about the restaurateur, just to claim your reservation? How would you feel if your favorite restaurant were vandalized--albeit after hours when no one was there--or driven out of business because people didn't want to cross the picket lines?

Restaurateurs and chefs: How would you feel if your restaurant were targeted by these protesters? What if you were victimized by them as businesses elswhere have been?

That is why I said I would willingly participate in counter-protests--not because I disagree about foie gras (which I do enjoy on occasion)--but because I want to preserve my freedom to choose what I eat and restaurateurs' freedom to choose their own menus.

I'm just sayin'.

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You obviously don't remember the 'Union' worker protests that eventually led to the shutdown of a washington institution called La Bagatelle

No, I do not. And being unfamiliar with that event and the issues, I can't comment on any comparison.

But what if the protesters move from foie gras to live crabs or lobsters and start picketing and threatening local seafood restaurants, or the Great Wall with its tanks of live creatures? Again, I'm not trying to argue whether or not these are humane, but whether they have the right to run their business--and their patrons to patronize their business--without harassment from those who pass judgment on them for putting live crabs in a steamer.

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I think there are ghastley practices in the industrial food business, and that there are ones on the border, and then there are clearly humane ones, if we difine humane as taking care to reduce suffering that is easily avoided.

For example, debeaking. Birds are in extreme pain when debeaked. If debeaked it is like a cot on yor tongue that won't heal. Caging. Feeding cows corn and making them stand in their own excrement and thus causing e coli. These are bad and I think we should not allow these practices where the benefits are allowing producers to produce more animals in a smaller area in a way that created waste problems that the rest of the popuilation has to deal with.

But what about "forced" feeding of ducks? If done on a farm where the animals are allowed to roam over a free range, te birds will actually approach their handlers to be fed. If the speed of the operation is slower the birds mortality rate is lower than ducks feeding in the wild. IF the birds are penned so they can't move and there is a high mortality rate, then there is a problem.

But these things can be measured and monitored. Just as we should shut down beef slaughter houses where the animals are not killed properly and the animals are butchered alive, we should ahve standards on poultry production and the allowable waste disposal methods etc. But Foie Gras? if done with reasonable care, it seems to be at best a border line call or actually one that falls short of how I would define inhumane.

Having said that, I just don't eat it any more. I have lost the taste for anything that rich.

Last add, I think that most of these questions of inhumane treatment should be directed at the day to day industrial farming techniques propounded by ADM, Perdue, IBP, Smithfield etc. And lets not frget the workers in these factories who face ghastly working conditions (documentable by injury rates) so we can have that $.99 happy meal.

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Dean, you've made excellent points, as have others upthread.

I support sustainable, local farming as much as I am humanly able. But I also recognize that we cannot feed the entire population that way. I support setting appropriate standards for growing crops and producing animal products. The standard-setting process must involve the producers. In some cases where legislation regarding this has been passed recently around the US, producers were not involved in the process, and some of the legislation may make it difficult for some producers to stay in business.

The anti-animal use movement is extremely well organized and unbelievably well-funded, and appears to be working from a long-range (decades long) plan. (Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not trying to take away my meat!)

This website exhorts its followers to organize protests, offers instructions, and lists target restaurants by state. All of our favorites are on the target list.

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