The Foie Gras Controversy Is Not So Controversial


At least, it’s not as controversial as any other meat production.

Foie gras is one of my favorite foods to put on a holiday plate. It’s a traditional French New Years treat; it has a fascinating culinary history, a special place in my heart, and brings back fond memories from my life in Paris.

But many animal rights activists have cried out against foie gras – it’s even been outlawed in food-hubs like Los Angeles. It’s cruel to the animals, they say, and I understand the concern. But if I were to hold all my food to the the standards to which these activists are asking me to hold my goose liver, well I’d probably be a vegetarian.

The harsh reality is that most animals raised to be on my plate are not living in complete comfort. They’re frequently living a life quite different from their wild brothers and sisters. The hope is just that we’re not being unreasonable with our claim to top-of-the-food-chain domination.


We diners do the best we can; try to eat grass fed beef, sustainably farmed fish, free-range eggs, and demand humane butchering when possible.

Still, at the end of the day, not every great restaurant gets their lamb from Fruition Farms, and not every steak comes from a happy cow. Do you demand more ethical treatment for all the animals on your menu, or just the ones in the spotlight? Are you actually advocating for the geese here, or your own personal image as a socially responsible person?

I’m not trying to preach that we forgo any regulations on foie gras farms – goodness knows that we Americans have a nack for taking reasonable French ideas to the extremes when unregulated (I’m looking at you, “laisse faire”). But what I am saying is that a Chef should not be condemned for making a smart foie gras choice when it comes to his menu.


What’s a “smart” foie gras choice?

For example, if Chef Matty Selby of Corner House sources his foie gras from a farm where he tells me the geese look just as happy as chicken hens, where they walk up willingly to the food tubes asking to be fed — that sounds like a smart foie gras choice.

No Reservations recently visited a farm like this and even filmed it to share the experience:

Because at the end of the day, the only real way to avoid any animal cruelty is to become a vegetarian, and it’s a little hypocritical to condemn a smart foie gras choice while you’re eating that hamburger from goodness-knows-what-farm.

And you know what? I bet the cow would be pretty happy if you replaced him with some foie this year.

EDIT: To clarify, this piece is in no way suggesting that foie gras production is not cruel to animals, but is saying that it is just as cruel as any practice in which an animal must be killed. I am not trying to justify animal killing, but simply saying that if you already do (which you do, if you’re a meat-eater) that foie gras isn’t any more cruel than other meat production, especially when the diner is paying attention to its source. I am not trying to convert any of you vegetarians out there; I respect and envy your self-control. Here are some meatless foie gras alternatives, just for you.

What’s your take? Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments!