Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The foie gras conversation

Having not played around much with foie gras before, I had turned to Google to look for any pointers as to how to put to best use the thick chunk of fresh fatty duck’s liver I’d picked up for my Christmas breakfast. But instead of getting two or three bog standard recipe ideas as is usual for such search strategies, this one returned nothing but links to photos and grainy video footage conveying the horror of the production process.

Fuck it, I thought, I’ll just spread it on hot toast then. The sight of all these people campaigning tirelessly to cure the world of this depravity had recalled all those routine conversations I have had or overheard about the rights and wrongs of eating foie gras. It’s the same conversation as the one about euthanasia or abortion or about Christmas becoming too commercial, each as much a waste of life as the next once you’ve endured two or three or however many it takes for you to arrive at an opinion of your own.

You’ve just got to keep things in perspective when working out what your opinion on foie gras (or veal or anything else that the animal rights army dreams up as its enemy for that matter) is. The single most formidable obstacle that most people come up against is their attitude towards social class, which tempts many to conflate their fledgling interest in animal rights with their well-honed dislike of the monied and landed. Next, some people confuse images of anatidae suffering (the bulk of which have been constructed from stories about the tubes and force-feeding or some other horrific factoid from the animal-liberation-front PR machine, or the Daily Mail) with their revulsion towards the taste and texture of the substance itself – or perhaps even the idea of eating internal organs in the first place. Finally, people generally fail to consider the actual numbers involved: just how many ducks and geese really are suffering at any one time? No single human can realistically eat more than one short and painful life’s worth each year for more than a few years, and very few manage that.

Failure to spend any time or energy unravelling issues like these usually allows hypocrisy to creep in. Somehow the public’s knowledge that the vast majority of the West’s pork, for example, comes from animals genetically much closer to us who spend their considerably longer and sorrier lives slowly burning to death in the ammonia of their own piss and shit on two square metres of concrete floor in a darkened hangar doesn’t seem to get them into such a fever, not to mention the chickens or the salmon. And what about the several species of large mammal that are on the brink of disappearing FOREVER from the realm of existence thanks to human greed?

A few ducks being stuffed to death for a small bunch of arseholes a few times a year is hard to lose sleep over given the atrocities carried out daily in the rest of the food chain – and that includes, if you want to get all Blythman about it, the slave labour that underlies the rock-bottom supermarket prices we all enjoy. Fuck the ducks is what I say. Their time will come when we’re all lying dead from H5N1, probably fairly soon.

And fuck Roger Moore too. Tonight, perhaps brought on by my eating nothing but goose and duck for the last three days (today, thankfully, being the last of it, served cold with a fresh, sharp Cumberland sauce and crispy hot stuffing), I thought I would put my apparently minority views about foie-gras-eating to the test by actually looking at some of the footage of the farms. I clicked with hesitation though. Just because I may not care much more than a thimble of mid-range Sauternes about the welfare of the bird whose artificially engorged liver is melting atop my hot crusty toast, seeing it as an acceptable crime to commit on the very few occasions that I do, I don’t like unnecessary cruelty to animals any more than those in the ALF. But when the video – on one of the more mainstream of the opposition sites – opened with Roger Moore’s sleazy husky voice describing how free ducks and geese like to be in the wild, accompanied by strings and piano in the background and slow-motion sunset shots of webbed feet skidding along mirror-like lakes, the whole thing fell apart for me. I was just waiting for the cut to the tubes and cages and shattered bills, and sure enough it came after about a minute and half -- with Moore’s grainy voice trembling as he described how the human equivalent of the amount of food being delivered to the stomachs of the birds in one sitting is about 45lbs of pasta (why pasta I’m not 100% sure, and he also didn’t state whether that was cooked or uncooked) and how, on account of being unable to move due to the sheer weight of their own livers, the poor critters have to sit there powerless while resident rats nibble at their open, festering wounds (cue close-up of the gaping action). His voice was breaking up so over-dramatically at one point that I expected him to burst out laughing.

It's not very Bond, is it.

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