Tuesday, December 11, 2007

From the Land that Gave us Big Brother

Meet Coun Ken Holt, a Conservative member of the Council of Stockport who is not a vegetarian but who refuses to wear fur, abhors bullfighting and who recently pushed through a ban on the sale of foie gras in Stockport proper.

Citizens of Stockport might do well to consider what Councillor Holt, who is not a vegetarian, has actually accomplished by instigating and promoting the ban of a product that is typically produced by means that are no more or less cruel than any other form of animal husbandry, and in some cases represents the apotheosis of humane farming practices.

By putting their faith in the hands of politicians who think they know what's best for the world and who have the will and the means to legislate their often ill-informed beliefs on an equally ill-informed public, the latter ends up giving up the right to choose what they would like to eat.

Don't be surprised, good citizens of Stockport, when Coun Ken Holt or some other politician comes back at you with another heart felt proposal, this time seeking to ban beef or mutton. Come to think of it, it should surprise you that a proposal to ban beef did not come first.

Think about it, world wide beef production and consumption dwarfs that of foie gras. Even in a small country like Britain, people eat far more beef, and so potentially cause misery to far more cattle than ducks and geese.

In 2003 the total imports of foie gras into the UK was estimated to be about 83 tonnes (95 tons US). That same year it is estimated that the British public consumed 974, 000 metric tonnes ( 1, 073,651.216 tons US) of beef. In other words, the British public consumed over 10, 000 times more beef than foie gras.

Surely Coun Ken Holt understands that the laws of probability alone dictate that far more cattle than ducks and geese have suffered to feed his fellow Brits. Or does he really think that all cattle are treated better than all geese and ducks? Hmm...

But maybe he was not aware that beef eating is more common than foie gras eating. After all, he is not a vegetarian, and so may not be aware of the prevalence of meat eating in his culture.

Some scientists claim the hydrogen because it is so plentiful is the basic building block of the universe, I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen and that is the basic building block of the universe.

-Frank Zappa, The Real Frank Zappa Book (Simon and Schuster, 1990)

In other STUPID news

A CITY centre restaurant has taken foie gras off the menu


Scotty said...

I have so much difficulty wrapping my brain around this whole issue that logical augment fails me. The Big Brother analogy may be appropriate though: we are at war with foie gras; we have always been at war with foie gras. Six month later, we are at war with veal and we have always been at war with veal (or raw milk cheese or insert something here).


The Foodist said...


try not to think to hard on the whole thing, your brain might explode. There is no ryhme or reason to it, its a battle that they are winning so its time every yahoo and thier mother should jump on the bandwagon.

They would never win the fight for beef or lamb or anything of the sort for that matter for the reason Bob so pointed out. They all eat beef, we all eat beef,lamb, chicken... etc etc.

its my hope that the "Old Country" holds out till I have a chance to get over there to some of the better establishments.

Scotty said...

Foodist, There is a lovely exercise in Law School called moot court. You are called upon to argue a case from one side. If you are lucky, you are called upon to argue the same case from the other side. It's a great intellectual activity.

Other than becoming a Vegan, I cannot argue the other side in this one -- I don't see it,

Tags said...

Maybe somebody from Stockport could tell the Count that the beef cattle are treated far worse than the ducks.

Ducks have throats that expand so they can eat pointy-spined fish and other difficult to eat prey.

Cows have stomachs made to eat grass, but corn is cheaper, so even though the cows get sick and many die (really, a LOT of them die, but it's still profitable so it still goes on), factory farms still use corn that nature never prepared them for.

sfchin said...

Dammit people, it's a diseased liver! It's not normal! It's not natural! Awww... phooey.

Tags said...


It's a diseased liver when it happens to people.

It's normal for a duck when he gorges himself - as is his nature.

sfchin said...

Oh tags. Surely you've read my comments on this subject before, both here and on Ruhlman.com and other places. It seems to be all the same people commenting, which is why I don't bother to get into it anymore.

In any case, the degree to which the livers are enlarged in foie gras production many times greater than what is seen in natural migratory birds. These ducks are also unnatural from the get-go, since they are nonmigratory, sterile hybrids anyways. Plus, were it truly a natural phenomenon, we could forego the tube-feeding and simply let them eat as much as they wanted all the time (which some farmers are trying somewhere).

Sean said...

Bob I think you are hitting on the fundemental irony in this and other welfare campaigns. I think it stems from the same NIMBY mentality which has killed wind farm developments, nuclear waste storage facilities, and other issues where personal responsibility meets real or percieved social responsibility. It is easy to argue that foie gras, a product enjoyed by a small portion of the general public, is an unecessarily cruel delicacy. It is quite another to tackle the more serious and more immediate issue of animal husbandry in general. No one wants to confront their own dinner plates or have others question the ethics of their diet. Foie gras is the sacrificial lamb for the general public's deep seated unease about consuming meat. While I oppose foie gras like any other form of animal exploitation, there are far larger issues which will take more political and social will to muster than anyone seems willing to generate.

JunkyPOS said...


Bob del Grosso said...

I think I am very good at indicating stupidity, irony and hypocrisy you are really good at explaining such stuff.

Next incarnation I'd like to have more of whatever it is you have that helps you to think that way.

Scotty/ Foodist
I think that maybe you are in about the same place that I am. You see stuff like this and wonder "Okay, what do I do now?"

The Foodist said...


Oh I know what to do...
Can I have one order of the Foie special please?

Tags said...


I think we can thank Michael Pollan for taking this issue out of the backyard and putting it front and center. More and more (though not quickly enough) people are becoming aware of what is going on and, as in any game of numbers, a small percentage turns that awareness into action.

I believe that as more people become aware, the number of people taking action will increase proportionally. With any luck, the 80/20 rule will apply.

I only hope it's not too little, too late.

Tags said...

BTW, I'll take some of that foie myself, thanks.

Tags said...

Raging against foie is the easy way out, even though the facts are against PETA.

Fighting the practices of the CAFOs is the difficult way.

When people take the easy way, the difficult way is neglected and never reached.

Lidgy said...

If an animal has to be 'dispatched', it should be done quickly and humanely, and not mutilated and tortured beforehand. Animal husbandry should also be humane. Those who aren't vegetarians can help to ensure this. Non-vegetarians don't necessarily eat beef or veal either, perhap being aware of the cruelty there too. The Council motion made reference to animal welfare in general as well as foie gras in particular, a point that the original commentator failed to mention. If everyone did their bit to oppose cruelty when they saw it, instead of joking about it and sneering, the world would be a better place.