December 06, 2007

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander

The Ducks Drink

In his Inqlings column yesterday, Michael Klein reported that Hugs for Puppies (“HFP”) and Professionals Against Foie Gras are hosting a “No Foie Gras Gala” this Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Ethical Society on Rittenhouse Square. HFP has become infamous for protesting restaurants that serve foie gras, and its tactics have been disturbing enough to convince courts to issue two injunctions against the group.

But, as Klein reported, this time the shoe is on the other foot. In a karmic twist of fate, a group of people who support foie gras plan to protest HFP's gala.

I learned that the pro-foie gras protest is being spearheaded by Terry McNally, co-owner of the London Grill—one of the few restaurants to stand up to HFP. McNally said that, unlike some of the people who protested her restaurant, she isn’t interested in acting crazy. “I don’t actually want to ‘protest’ as much as wanting to be there [to share] correct information,” McNally said via email. According to McNally, the protest begins at 5:30 p.m.

But McNally and her supporters may not be the only ones who will be there. Turns out that a film crew from France is in the country filming a documentary about foie gras for French TV. My source tells me that the film crew may make a detour to Philly on Saturday evening to film the gala protest.

And if that wasn’t enough foie gras redux (re-ducks?) for you, check out this article in the recent issue of Esquire by John Mariani called “The Truth About Foie Gras.” Mariani visited Hudson Valley Foie Gras recently and he came to the same conclusion I did.

UPDATE: I just confirmed directly with Lacroix that Chef Matthew Levin will be serving the pro-foie gras protestors free canapés, including medallions of foie gras. Sounds like the protestors may end up eating better fare than the gala attendees.


Anonymous said...

I was at the rally tonight, on the pro-foie side.

First, as far as the food was concerned, there were two foie canapes: a foie tart and what seemed like foie pate on a small piece of bread. I hate to say it, but the former had a finish that I can only describe as vomit-like. I've never tasted this before in any dish, let alone any foie dish, and it's unfortunate that those who may have been trying foie for the first time may now be under the mistaken impression that it has this taste.

In any case, what I really want to comment on is some exchanges that took place between attendants of the gala event and our group, as these exchanges reveal quite a bit about the anti-foie camp. I had two heated conversations with a man from the event. He denied being a HFP member but claimed to know Nick Cooney; I'm not sure what, if any, organization he was affiliated with.

This person seemed to be a reasonable, intelligent, well-educated man. He was a self-proclaimed vegan. His objection to foie was, of course, that its methods of production are cruel. But he had a hard time defending this claim.

It was most revealing when I said that there was no credible scientific evidence to the effect that foie production is cruel, and he responded with, 'You know, science is a social construct.' When I claimed not to understand what this means (in fact, I don't think that most people who are in the habit of declaring things to be 'social constructs' have any idea what they mean by this; it just sounds fashionable), he responded that science is 'open to interpretation.'

It's one thing when this kind of idiocy rears its head in introductory undergraduate philosophy courses. It's quite another when it's employed by people bent on controlling what we can do with our lives in support of their radical ideologies.

When pushed, the man did try to defend his claim that foie gras production is cruel. He would repeat the claim that the livers involved are up to 10x their normal size. But it's completely unclear what relation this claim, even if true, is supposed to have to the thesis that foie production is cruel. When asked to produce such a connection, the man could only respond that if you imagined having a liver 10x its normal size, surely it would be pushing on neighboring organs and body parts and would be very painful...

This kind of anthropomorphizing is not new to the anti-foie camp, but it's fairly shocking to hear it made explicit. Just to be clear: the best argument this ambassador to the anti-foie camp could come up with was that if we imagined having livers as enlarged as foie livers, we'd soon see that this is painful.

I didn't ask if we were supposed to imagine that we're ducks as well, or if we're just supposed to imagine ourselves as we are, only with enlarged livers...

When I pressed that there is no credible scientific evidence that foie production is cruel, he said he was confident that they would find such evidence. This was telling. He is antecedently convinced that foie production is cruel; the evidence gathering process for him comes *after* he's formed his belief. A curious way to form beliefs.

I have to say that I see striking parallels between the anti-foie campaign and creationists. Their attitude toward science seems to be identical; science represents just another 'opinion', and we're entitled to disagree. That this attitude is so very dangerous goes without saying.

Some other comments: this guy also claimed to be completely oblivious to HFP's extreme tactics (i.e. the threats against those who serve foie), yet claimed to know Cooney well. I don't know if he's just lying, or deluding himself, or if Cooney somehow manages to convince outsiders that all of the allegations against his group are fabrications...

Also: at the end of the protest this guy who had been with us the whole time left the group and walked into the door to the gala event while proclaiming 'Say no to foie'. That is, he had been a spy. This was mostly just amusing, as there wasn't very much high-level strategizing going on outside; we were mostly just eating foie. More to the point, though, we need someone to infiltrate HFP, if we haven't done this already. Or we could just ignore them, I don't know which is best.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your linking the animal rights movement to creationists. Most ideologies are not science friendly.

Anonymous said...

Bourdain's POV on foie