Top California chefs stew over looming ban on foie gras

By: Michael Thurston
21 May, 2012

A simmering row between animal rights campaigners and some top chefs is coming to the boil, ahead of a looming ban on foie gras in California.

Protesters took their message to the streets recently as a series of high-end restaurants staged events to celebrate the gastronomic delicacy, made from the livers of force-fed ducks.

"Helpless ducks are force-fed; eat somewhere else instead," chanted some 30 protesters outside the Michelin two-starred Melisse restaurant in Santa Monica.

"We were out there being the voice for the ducks, who obviously don't have a voice," Amber Coon of the Animal Protection and Rescue League told reporters. She said California was leading the way for other states.

California's foie gras ban comes into force on July 1, and a group of chefs have formed the Coalition for Human and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS) to combat the perception they don't care how animals are treated.

Inside Melisse, owner and chef Josiah Citrin offered guests at the ticket-only event a six-course menu that included foie gras (French for "fatty liver") in every dish, from entrees to desserts.

The meal, which cost $US200 ($A202.93) a head, included pressed foie gras terrine, lobster with foie gras and salsify and, for dessert, foie gras butter kuchen with local cherries and foie gras ice-cream.

Citrin is even selling T-shirts emblazoned with "Touche Pas a Mon Foie Gras" ("Keep Your Hands Off My Foie Gras") and featuring a picture of a duck in a chef's hat.

The event aimed to "raise money and awareness about this legislation, which single-handedly attacks foie gras but fails to address the lack of humane or ethical standards and treatment for other items in our food chain," he said.

The CHEFS lobby group presented a petition to lawmakers in Sacramento a few weeks ago, and at least four LA-area restaurants have held events to highlight the cause.

Even more directly in the firing line is California's only farm producing the delicacy.

Artisan Sonoma Foie Gras Farm, which was founded more than 20 years ago by Guillermo and Junny Gonzalez, is closing down. The couple, who studied in France's Perigord region before establishing themselves in Sonoma, north of San Francisco, insists their production methods are not cruel.

"Our farm is being forced to shut down at the end of June, and the most unfortunate fact is that science has not been given a chance to play a role in this debate," Guillermo Gonzalez told reporters.

He expressed concern that "a powerful special interest group with an anti-meat agenda was able to impose its morals on us all".

Source: AAP