Wednesday, June 20, 2007

China may change its stripes on tiger trade ban - World -

Oh great. While we spend countless hours and words worrying about how chickens are raised and whether or not it's okay to eat meat. Some people are polishing their chop-sticks in anticipation of being able to eat an animal that's in danger of becoming extinct. Where's PETA, Wolfgang Puck and Charlie Trotter on this, I wonder? Why aren't the vegans out demonstrating in front of Kosher and Halal restaurants? Is it because animals that have their throats cut without having first been rendered insensate by a bold gun or electric shock suffer less than force fed ducks?
Please accept my apologies for this disjointed mini-rant. I'm not up to speed today.

China may change its stripes on tiger trade ban - World -


Ellie said...

Utterly disgusting. Sure, it's a long-standing cultural thing, but should we allow the destruction of a species so that they can have tiger testicles as a improver of virility? Isn't Viagra cheaper?

FaustianBargain said...

please dont confuse two is factory farming and the other is a threat to wildlife. entirely different animals.

altho' i dont think the united states will ever serve tiger meat.

and when was the last time china ever bowed to international pressure/requests/reason when it comes to environmental damage/impact?(mind you..i am keeping this non political...but we wont go there)

FaustianBargain said...

Owners of tiger farms argue that allowing farming of captive beasts will help protect the Chinese tigers remaining in the wild, believed to number 50 or less.

However, China could face international condemnation if it were to lift the ban.

There are more than 5000 tigers in captivity in China, with a thousand born every year in state and private zoos and tiger farms.

Globally, no more than 7000 tigers are believed to remain in the wild. The Siberian tiger is critically endangered with just an estimated 400 left in the wild, but China's private zoos are having a baby boom, with 84 Siberian cubs born in the past three months at one private zoo in northern China.

i think a trade embargo will be relevant here..but govts dont even care about their own citizen's wellbeing and would rather protect trade..human rights violations seem to matter even..what makes you think that certain countries will impose a trade embargo for animals..

i am beyond disgusted.

Bob del Grosso said...


I deliberately conflated the two issues so that I could rant at the hypocrisy of activists who condemn only those practices that they know are politically expedient to condemn.

Perhaps I did not do a very good job of it (I didn't really. It was at base, a knee jerk post rattled off before I was fully awake.) but I won't admit to confusing anything.

But all of that aside. I'm increasingly coming to the opinion that a big part of what is driving the anti-foie activists is rooted in something other than concern over the well being of animals. I'm not sure if I know how to articulate it now, but it I think it is what might be called a "counter-cultural rebellion" similar to what we have seen many, many times before over many generations. It's a reaction against the status quo of "the parent" culture so naturally they focus on abuses that they see happening close to home.
Must think about this some more.

Thanks FaustianBargain, you are a fine muse (and I'm sure a fine person too).

FaustianBargain said...

there are no american activists protesting foie gras in france. but why expect them to go to china? i think the positions of most american activists(of any stripe...animal rights, anti war, anti capitalism, anti gmo etc) are easy to strike down because their put it bluntly..are naive, simple minded, idiotic and not terribly practical. ...and at the end of the day, not effective. if we were to explore why..we'd probably have to go into a psychoanalytical discussion about america herself and what drives her.

but the point is...why would you expect american activists to protest chinese environmental/wild life abuse? what exactly do you expect them to do? at this level, govts have to interfere. but i will tell you something, no animal rights activists, naive or otherwise..american or not, will support the chinese decision to keep the option open on her use of tigers..bones, body parts captivity. you see..china is just announcing to the world that she has tiger 'stuff' for export. that's all it means. no sanction, even if imposed, will sway china. chinese govt doesnt give a damn about criticism of her environmental/wild life policies or international condemnation.

bob, i understand that the anti-foie gras camp really irks you as it does irk a lot of people. yes, it is low hanging fruit and it is easier to go after it. but so what?! dont you do it in your own life? get rid of smaller problems before you tackle larger headaches?

animals and trees, nobody cares for them. it is easy to caricature those who do, but there are some valid concerns that need to be addressed.

but i think you are wrong about the counter culture rebellion. there is no history of foie gras in this country until very recently. whale hunting, seal hunting..and if the sale of horse meat for human consumption becomes legal in this country, you'd hear from them too...but i think a lot of foie gras lovers are just annoyed that it is taken away from their plate...fair enough.

i think you want to speak more about the foie gras ban. get it out of your system, but dont glue this issue with the chinese decision. i am only saying this because it is difficult for you to make a logical case for foie gras or against animal activists who oppose foie gras production in america. you can easily fall into the same camp of people like bourdain and ruhlman who make sensationalist statements for attention and that is not pretty. i know you have more to say..let us dissect it. let us focus and trash it out. i am actually looking forward to hearing you thoughts on the activists.

and thank you. i am actually pretty convinced that you are great guy...:)

FaustianBargain said...

nothing to do with foie gras or big cats..but i found this snippet at interesting and thought i'd share it with you..

ethicurean mentions:

"Going to China? Consider turning vegetarian for your trip, or at least avoiding the street food. China’s chicken battery farming typically results in large numbers of sick or prematurely expired chickens — 80 percent of which still end up in the food supply, says ChinaDialogue’s “Truth About Dead Chickens” digested with revulsion by Andrew Leonard in his Salon column, How the World Works. Leonard goes on to ponder alternatives to battery farming that won’t eat up land, like “skyscraper farms”; we’re more concerned about how the U.S. government wants to allow chickens raised, slaughtered, and cooked in China to be sold in the United States. Look, we’re not xenophobic, and the U.S. has its own problems on this front, but China seems like the Wild West, or maybe the Middle Ages, around food- and environmental safety."


you think the us will reconsider importing chinese chicken? they'll give them a list of 'requirements'. we saw how that worked with the pet food industry.

Bob del Grosso said...

I checked out and liked Ethicurian, thanks.
I really should post something that fully articulates what I think about many in the animal rights movement and the targets of their concerns. But the thing is that the subject is so complicated, that I'm not sure how to do it without writing a book that almost no one will read.

But let me say this for now. For the record I actually admire people who refuse to eat animals and use animal products. I also believe that people have the right to protest the use of animals as food and whatever.

At the same time however, I think attempts to ban foie gras based on the belief that gavage is inhumane bec the animals suffer as a result that their liver is diseased is misdirected at best and at worst specious.

Let's assume that it is true that a duck with an enlarged liver is miserable.

Does it matter that a duck suffers for a few days or weeks with symptoms of liver disease when it's going to end up with it's head in an electrified water bath? Isn't the water bath worse? Isn't that what should be the focus of the protest? In other words, shouldn't the protest be focused on the killing, not the husbandry practices? And why isn't it I wonder?

And lets look at the Wolfgang Puck types whose main concern seems to be the abuses visited upon animals at factory farms (which are real and I do not endorse). How much does it matter to a calf, I wonder, if he is raised in a box or a field when the bolt gun goes off?

The other day I was watching a video of cattle being slaughtered in a mechanized slaughterhouse and as horrible as it was, I could not help but wonder how it is any different for the cattle that are slaughtered on a small farm practicing sustainable agriculture.

I don't know if you have ever killed anything or seen anything have it's life taken but I've done both and from where I sit it seems to me that no animal
goes quietly.

You are on record here somewhere of objecting or being sympathetic to the idea of luxury food like foie gras as unnecessary and therefore disposable. Well, I don't hear any difference in the death cries of a duck raised for foie gras and another raised for "meat."

The ethical problem for me of course (I'm a chef remember.) is that I'm not sure how much I care.

I've got good if selfish reasons to want to see big changes in the way that factory farms operate. The environmental impact of these is awful. And I'd like to have better tasting chickens and pork to eat (most beef is pretty good). But I'm not optimistic that changing the farming model is going to do much to alleviate the misery visited upon animals when they are killed. Actually I think I could make an argument that the best people to develop painless methods of slaughter are the ones with the deepest pockets and not small boutique farmers.

And then there there is the prospect of the development of cloned meat. Meat cloned from muscle cells would take most animals out of the human part of the food web altogether.

Steve said...

Bob, it is refreshing to read your thoughts on the issue, since you present them in a logical and well-reasoned way (as opposed to most of the reactionary gibberish spewed out by most commenters on Ruhlman's site).

I certainly agree with the notion that humane slaughter is of paramount importance, which is why I will always hold Temple Grandin in much higher regard than PETA, Farm Sanctuary, or *ahem* Hugs For Puppies. I believe the crux of my disagreement with your position lies in this question:

"How much does it matter to a calf, I wonder, if he is raised in a box or a field when the bolt gun goes off?"

To me, whether the calf is raised in a box or a field makes all the difference. Everyone must first answer the basic question: Do we kill animals for food, or do we not? Once we make the decision to eat meat, we are in a different ethical realm. You and I agree that we will eat meat, and that slaughter practices are very important. But simply because we will kill the animals in the end does not give us license (ethically speaking) to do whatever we like up until then. We are still responsible for their entire lives, and we have the power to determine whether those lives are defined by happiness or suffering. Granted, I am making a career out of ensuring the health and well-being of animals, so I may not have an entirely objective perspective on the issue.

Every act of husbandry is either helpful or harmful to an animal. Helpful things include feeding them what they would naturally eat, giving them space to roam and exercise, giving them an outlet to express natural behaviors. Harmful things include feeding corn and animal parts, confining them to battery cages or veal crates, raising them on concrete. Every act has ethically positive or negative value associated with it (can you tell I'm a utilitarian?), and the goal is to maximize the good and minimize the bad.

If we focus now on the act of gavage, can we determine if it is helpful or harmful? Given two ducks, one who is force fed and the other free choice fed (and all other variables otherwise equal), which duck is better off? I would conclude that the duck who is free choice fed is better off. I couldn't give a hoot whether the activists are picking on the wealthy, whether there are bigger problems in the world, or whether battery caged hens should be so lucky as to live like a foie duck. Those points, which the foie supporters invariably bring up, have nothing to do with whether gavage is good or bad.

If someone accepts that gavage is bad, but feels that foie gras is just too damn good to stop eating, I'm ok with that. But most foie supporters refuse to admit that there is anything wrong with gavage to begin with. I'm not sure how any reasonable person could possibly think that. Especially people who purport to otherwise support humanely raised meat, elimination of battery cages and gestation crates, blah blah. It's one thing if you tell me animals are for meat. Fine. But to talk about humanely raised, local, sustainable agriculture and then to raise foie gras ducks as the pinnacle of all that is right and good with animal husbandry? Are you freaking kidding me? It makes me think that I'm missing something very important. But I'm such an arrogant prick that I tend to just think everyone else is an idiot.

In any case, it is very very easy for me not to eat foie gras and veal. It is becoming easier to buy my own Certified Humane eggs and chicken, Niman Ranch pork, MSC sustainable seafood, and all that good treehugger stuff. It's damn near impossible to eat humanely raised meat in restaurants, and I'm sort of ok with that (although McDonald's purchases all its fish from two MSC certified fisheries -- isn't that outrageous?). Bob, I think the reasons you cite for caring about how animals are raised (environmental impact, taste) are honorable and good. Not everyone cares about the happiness of every fluffy animal that we'll end up eating anyways. But don't turn around and try to tell me that gavage is good for the health and happiness of those ducks! (which I don't believe you ever have)

I look forward to your continued commentary on all topics, culinary or otherwise.

FaustianBargain said...

thank you, bob.

you said: "Let's assume that it is true that a duck with an enlarged liver is miserable.

Does it matter that a duck suffers for a few days or weeks with symptoms of liver disease when it's going to end up with it's head in an electrified water bath?"

Short answer: YES!

Of course, it matters.

Once upon a time, I used to walk around my garden, an pipe in hand, looking for garden lizards to kill. We had several cats in our backyard and some of them were feral. Sometimes, these feral cats would litter in the garden. When the kittens are old enough, the mother cat would teach the kitten to hunt. She'd catch one of those pretty, colourful, teeny tiny birds. And she'd toss it in front of the kittens and watch them go at it. This is her idea of introducing her babies to solid food. The kittens would torture the bird for a few minutes and walk away. My part time job was to score the garden..under the bushes..near the the well...for half dead critters. Garden lizards, birds and those bright green water snakes were Mama's favourite prey. With the exception of the snakes, almost all of that she caught were maimed and really beyond survival. One quick smash and I'd put them out of their misery. Should I leave them because it is natural for cats to hunt lizards? Maybe it is natural for lizards to suffer and linger around before finally dying. But it is not natural for a human being, evolved as we are, to sit back and watch suffering. We dont have to interfere with nature, but we cannot and should not approve of needless suffering.

Even the mother cat digs her teeth into the jugular vein of the lizard , completely paralysing the prey before she tosses it infront of her kittens. Maybe I am wrong about that part of the anatomy or the bit about the cat paralysing the animal...maybe the cat paralyses the lizard because she doesnt want the kittens to be hurt by the flailing prey. regardless, in nature, animals dont kill unless there is an absolute need and even the occasional teaching aids the mother cat brings to her kittens is a 'how-to'.

everytime I hear about foie-gras lovers rant on about how their rights are being trampled upon, I wonder how they'd narrate hansel and gretel to their children at night. It should be an interesting narration and probably from the pov of the witch.

The ability to empathise is very important. The minute we turn it off, even if it is for animals, we are not far from turning against our own, desensitising ourselves from others' suffering. I am not against consuming meat for food. I am not *that* mad, but objectifying animals as 'food' as though they are something you can purchase in a carton or box in a supermarket is not a good sign.

Some people have attempted to 'meet the meat' and tried to 'not waste' every edible part of the animal. This, I do not understand. Just because one looks at a pig before it's slaughtered doesnt mean that they have 'understood' where their food comes from..*everyone* knows where meat comes from...To embrace our weakness/love for meat as food and to ACKNOWLEDGE that it is a choice we are willing to live with is what I'd consider as honesty rather than looking at a pig before munching your way from ears to tail. And the argument about 'not wasting' is spurious. I can assure you that more pigs and cows have been slaughtered..the demand has been more for meat ever since the love affair with offal announcing that one is somehow more conscious with their food habits because they are 'not wasting' any part and eating offal is rather suspect.

Now..those two were my pet peeves. I had to get it out of my system. But it's same objection I have with foie gras supporters. I dont care if they are indifferent towards a duck's forcefeeding so they can have foie gras. But to claim that foie gras farms are like spas for ducks is just ridiculous.

Every time someone brings up factory farming and workers' wages when the foie gras debate starts, I am puzzled. I see it as a distraction from the real issue. It is a major logical fallacy.

Having said that, I do feel terribly sorry when foie gras eaters are shamed while they are enjoying what they like..even if it is foie gras. I think everyone has the right to enjoy their food even if others dont personally approve it. Food is so personal and one shouldnt be banned from enjoying their favourite food.

Here is my take on animal rights activists and those against foie gras. And I am not talking about the radical ones and the terrorist kind. Even the most mild mannered animal rights activist who is keen to see the consumption of foie gras eliminated will not hesitate to resort to applying a little guilt.

Herein lies the biggest pitfall for the foie gras lovers. Because underneth all this, there is a fundamental guilt about forcefeeding, but it is hidden underneath the layers and layers of justifications that comes in the form of propoganda from the foie gras industry. That it is not cruel..that it is an ancient 'tradition'..that it is better than battery eggs and imprisoned bovines.

In my opinion, people do not really confront the real reason behind their love for foie gras. It is a love for luxury. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. At another level, there are social factors at work..because it is so expensive, it gives normal people the warm fuzzy feeling of supping like 'the others' do. There is nothing wrong with this either.

When foie gras supporters confront this about themselves, I'd imagine that at least half of them will give up foie gras or not be so passionate about it. The support for foie gras comes from a weak foundation. The passion is not real, but contrived and encouraged by a false notion that the ducks are being pampered. People NEED to believe that gavage is painless(which might as well be..if we are only speaking of the forcefeeding/lack of gag reflex bit)..they NEED to hear from the authority who are the self proclaimed experts on animal husbandry that animals do not feel discomfort...that they do not feel pain..that their livers are not diseased. Which is why there is a lot of citing of 'scientific studies' and recalling ancient history(never mind that the duck breeds used now for foie gras did not even exist then). It makes their stance seem human and less vile than they would normally seem to the animal activist.

That foie gras supporters are still attempting to engage the anti foie gras people in debate is itself proof positive that they need the approval..not from others, but from themselves. This, of course, is only opinion.

This is also why I believe that you'll never see a demonstration by pro foie gras groups asking that they be allowed to eat forcefed livers of sterile waterfowl. Because it is a human universal to want to be accepted and to be seen as someone with obvious negative qualities. Few people will openly cite a love for fine food as a justification for forcefeeding.

Meat satisfies other needs..especially nutrition. But foie gras has little that people will openly fight for..if there is, you'd see more public demonstrations instead of angry opinions and rants. The point is that it is not about foie gras being a 'low hanging fruit' that is easy to is more about foie gras being such an over-the-top luxury that is difficult for most to defend it and it's production.

An honest examination of foie gras and what it really means to people will help to release them from their illusions. Foie gras, like everything else, will survive only if the raise d'etre is real enough for people to give their support to...

Here..on the opposite spectrum..Jose Bive rallied against McD. people stood behind him. There wouldnt be much support if someone demonstrated FOR fast food. Even though I am sure most of Jose Bive's supporters enjoy a McD burger and frites now and then...It is not about the burger, but it is about what the burger stands for..we cannot escape it. we are forever defined by what we choose to put into our mouth. our food is so personal and our food choices are tied to our consciousness...and mostly tied to how it will reflect upon us..

thanks for listening. i am sure i forgot to type other thoughts that came to me when i read your comment. but i'll be back when it turns up inside my head space.

take care.

Bob del Grosso said...


I'm sorry that I don't have time to respond to each of you in kind but I'm trying to finish up a bunch of stuff before leaving for a long weekend. I really appreciate the emotionally restrained and rationally measured quality of what each of you write and I get the sense that both of you are as resonable and as worldy as your prose suggests.

I've really got to hurry off but I would like to say that I think I've hit a wall with subject of foie gras and eating animals in general.

I can't explain this fully now but I'm stuck on the idea that if I am going to reject eating foie gras I'm going to have to reject eating animals altogether. I am unconvinced that a force fed duck suffers. Why? Because I've handled, dissected, cooked and served hundreds of pounds of the stuff (and eaten a fair amount although not much in recent years) and instinctively cannot believe that anything that beautiful could come from an abused animal. I've also cooked other parts of the animals too and almost all of is has been high quality with no bruising, broken bones or other signs of trauma.

But and it's a big but. I also know that there is the possibility that what I see and sense is illusory.
Maybe what I think are signs of great care and husbandry are really signs of abuse. And if that is true then maybe the chickens I buy because they look and taste better than other chickens have also been abused and the beef too.

I know that what I'm writing here could sound disingenuous but I don't mean to be. As a chef I have learned to evaluate quality by how something looks, smells, tastes, feels and cooks, and thought I knew what a muscle or liver from a sick animal looked like. Most Foie gras to me seems like the antithesis of a liver from an unhealthy animal.

And Faustian, the luxury value of foie gras means nothing to me. My appreciation for it emanates only from my apprehension of it's intrinsic physical qualities and the effect it has on the "palate" and, of course, the concomitant aesthetic affects.

Bob del Grosso said...


I realize that you were not nec. referring to me when you wrote that many people are only drawn to the lux. quality of fg. And I agree with all of what you wrote in regard.

Sorry if I appeared to misunderstand!

FaustianBargain said...

hey bob. i dont know what to say..and there is no need. we dont all have to agree with each other. but thank you for your posts and thoughts. it is refreshing to hear your opinions compared to the drivel i see elsewhere online.

i didnt want to clutter your blog anymore and also, i wanted to add content to my own, so i have put up a post here
i have posted a couple of youtube links related to a bbc horizon documentary on temple grandin. it is as much about her autism as it is about her work wrt animal welfare.

take care. looking forward to your other posts and thoughts on any subject. thanks again.