Foie gras: Fan or foe? It's a hot debate

US - The special of the day is foie gras, a topic that's hotter than the pan that sears it. Truthfully, I've been laying low on the subject, because I didn't want to draw activists to Seattle restaurants.

I didn't want them protesting outside of our restaurants, hassling chefs and diners, as they've done in Portland.

Alas, I can't put off weighing in any longer. Now that there is a counter-campaign called In Defense of Foie Gras -- a play on In Defense of Animals -- I think we're going to see much more vocal debates on the issue.

If you're unfamiliar, the question is whether the act of overfeeding ducks to enlarge their livers constitutes cruelty to animals. The argument from the anti-foie gras camp ( is that the ducks are force-fed extreme amounts of food from a tube stuck down their throats, which causes their livers to grow to about a third of their total body weight, which in turn incapacitates the animals.

The activists have distributed photos and video of unhealthy-looking ducks kept in tight quarters, sitting in their own muck, and testimonials from veterinarians saying that foie gras production is indeed cruel.

Defenders of foie (liver) gras (fat), say that the ducks, which are raised for meat as well as their livers, do not have a gag reflex and are inherently prone to overeating.

So, the feeding tube does not cause discomfort. Also, the practice comes from 5,000 years of history. The defenders have distributed photos and video of healthy-looking ducks roaming free amid a walnut orchard, and testimonials from veterinarians that foie gras production is indeed humane.

calendar icon 11 May 2005
clock icon 1 minute read
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