Thursday, July 2, 2009

Foie Gras: Eating Diseased Giblets

Foie Gras (fatty duck/goose liver) is a much “prized” delicacy. And terribly expensive to boot. Food writers try to outdo each other extolling the virtues of the dish. Indeed, a “gourmet” restaurant is not worth its self-proclaimed status if it does not boast foie gras on its menu.

The story is not much different in Mumbai. One self-proclaimed “foodie” Prashant Rajkhowa reviewing Cafe Prato in the Four Seasons hotel in Mumbai in his blog 'Healthy Living In India' (ha, haa!) where he ate (probably for free) actually writes: “The Foie Gras was excellent and if I was ever reborn a goose, that's the way I want to go.” This guy is certainly asking for it, so I must grant him his last wish.

Okay mate, here's what we'll do: We will begin with shoving a pipe down your throat several times a day and pump you so full of food that your liver becomes diseased and balloons up. If you're not already dead by the time we're through with you, we'll cut you up, extract your bloated liver (throwing the rest of you away as animal feed) and serve you up to your earlier avatar in a “fine dining” restaurant. (Waiting for the next review, Prashant).

Anyway, back to foie gras. A European Union's Scientific Committee on Animal Health study shows that duck/geese death rates during force feeding skyrocket by 10 to 20 times - imagine any process that causes a population's death rate to be 1000 to 2000 percent greater than normal. Of course, every animal is in misery for the entire horrid ordeal.

According to scientific studies, the birds who don't die suffer from impaired liver function, skeletal disorders, and other serious illnesses. Many become so sick they can barely move. Carcasses show wing fractures and severe tissue damage to the throat muscles.

Dr Ian Duncan, a consultant to the Canadian government and poultry industry who literally wrote the poultry regulations in Canada, explains that “force feeding quickly results in birds that are obese and in a pathological state, called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease. There is no doubt, that in this pathological state, the birds will feel very ill.”

Dr Duncan further explains that the regular insertion of a feeding tube damages the birds' oesophagi, which exacerbates the painfulness of each force feeding, and that “the birds' obesity will lead to myriad other problems from skeletal disorders to difficulties in coping with heat stress, and all of which are accompanied by feelings of malaise.”

Dr Christine Nicol, a consultant to the British poultry industry and government, and a professor at the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol, says, “My view on the production of foie gras is clear and supported by biological evidence. This practice causes unacceptable suffering....It causes pain during and as a consequence of the force feeding, feelings of malaise as the body struggles to cope with extreme nutrient imbalance, and distress due to the forceful handling. The most extreme distress is caused by loss of control of the birds' most basic homeostatic regulation [survival] mechanism as their hunger control system is over-ridden.”

In other words: All the birds are sick, vast numbers to the point of death. And it's these scientific facts that explain why every reputable animal protection group in the world, including many that do not advocate vegetarianism, condemns foie gras as cruel.

No one who professes to care about animal welfare can defend forcing pipes down birds' throats two or three times a day and pumping up to 2 kg of grain and fat into their stomachs until their livers enlarge to ten times their natural size (livers expand from about 70 grams to about 700 grams).

Biological facts - which have been completely lacking from a few recent articles defending the industry - show beyond any doubt that foie gras production is cruel. Kind people are duty bound to oppose it.

Enjoy your Foie Gras, Prashant! Bon Appetit!

Roger And Out

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