Yummy? The good people at Jewschool have alerted me to this rather interesting New York Metro article on the controversy surrounding foie gras production in the US. But not only is at an interesting article. It’s a totally Jewlicious article.

The problem with foie gras, of course, is that in order to get that big phat duck liver, the ducks are forcefed several times a day for several weeks in a process poetically termed finition d’engraissement, or for people who don’t feel like stumbling over three miles of French every time they want to say, “cramming a tube into a duck’s mouth and stuffing it full of corn,” gavage. Foie gras producers contend that the ducks, who have no gag reflex as they don’t chew their food, actually come to enjoy this, while protesters claim that the ducks’ livers have been known to explode. While the concept of being forcefed with a tube down your throat may turn the stomachs of some, personally I would say it depends on the food: if I were forcefed, say, shakshuka, I would be probably lie there happily until they had to squeegee me off the walls. Corn I might have a problem with.

Anyway, one of the personages interviewed in the article is foie gras producer Ariane Daguin, who takes a religious stance on her product:

“Animals have no soul,” she says, in her rich Gascon accent. “God made ducks to have that liver – and He made it incredibly delicious! Why would it exist if not for us to enjoy it?”

When pressed further about the alleged cruelty of gavage, Daguin hits back in classic French manner: she blames the Jews.

“Foie gras, this is the easy target. If these people wanted to start in the right place, they would outlaw the slaughter of cows in a kosher way, which they could never do here. The one time I saw a cow slaughtered that way, seeing it bleed for two hours, this was the one time I had to go outside and vomit.”

It is a mystery why Mademoiselle Daguin was watching a slaughtered cow for two hours. But perhaps her animosity towards Jewish methods of slaughter stems from opposition to the production of foie gras from a very notable French Jewish source (and no, it wasn’t the late Jacques Derrida):

In the eleventh century, the French rabbi Rashi declared that Jews who force-fed birds would have some explaining to do in the afterlife.

Somebody should tell that to the man who made foie gras popular in America and the founder of the farm in New York that produces much of it. A man who, of course, is an Israeli.

The man most detested by the animal-rights advocates, arguably the driving force in what made foie gras the sensation it is in America, is Michael Ginor.

At 41, Ginor is burly and built low to the ground, a fighter unmistakably. The eldest of three brothers, Ginor was born in Seattle, where his father was chief engineer for the Boeing 727 project. In younger days, he was a successful Wall Street bond trader, then (as the son of Israeli parents) he spent two years volunteering as a squad commander in the Israeli army, patrolling the Gaza Strip.

It was near Tel Aviv, 22 years ago, that Ginor first tasted foie gras. He recalls the event as “a magical experience,” the beginning of “a love story.” After returning to the States, he was stunned to sample foie gras from what was then America’s only producer, California’s Sonoma Valley—for this foie gras didn’t enrapture him the way overseas foie gras had. On a culinary mission, he sought out Ariane Daguin, who introduced him to an animal-science expert named Izzy Yanay. The two men founded Hudson Valley, keen to produce the high-quality foie gras Ginor had experienced abroad.

Not only is Ginor responsible for the popularization of foie gras in the US, he may be helping to drive the nails into its coffin:

While Ariane Daguin is agonizing over the possibility of a New York law banning production, Ginor is technically supporting it. Actually, it’s more than that – he and his lobbyists helped write it. Faced with the prospect of being hobbled by a new law every year, Ginor would rather have a decade to move his facilities to foie gras–friendly terrain. “I’m cooperating with this new bill because I can’t have a legislative guillotine hanging over my head year after year. I have 200 employees to think of. I know that sounds holier-than-thou, but . . .” If Hudson Valley is shut down, Ginor says, he has a fistful of options. Canadian commerce officials have come south to woo him. “We could also move parts of the operation to an Indian reservation, or to Connecticut, or North Carolina. Or I could just walk away, do something else.”

A ban on foie gras production and sale will go into effect in California in 2012 (interestingly, California law also dictates that one must apologize before cutting up vegetables and that Earth is to be officially referred to, even in astronomy textbooks, as “the All-Nurturing Sacred Mother Gaia”). And as of this year, force feeding was banned in Israel, the result of a long campaign against foie gras noted for the bumper stickers (both featured in Hadag Nachash’s “Shirat ha-Sticker”) “Kama Akhazriut Efshar Livloa?” (how much cruelty is possible to swallow?) and “Tnu l’Chayot Lichyot” (let animals live).

So, in the end, despite the protests of Mar Ginor, foie gras seems to have been officially declared un-Jewlicious. Now, half the Jewlicious blogteam is vegetarian (me, Laya and ck), so it doesn’t really apply to us, but I would like to remind everyone that for every slice foie gras you refuse and instead eat a nice kosher steak, you’re symbolically giving the finger to Ariane Daguin. Rashi would be proud.

About the author

michael

45 Comments

  • Of course the smelly hairy armpits of society (the Frenchies) go to blame the Jews for just about anything. Did you know that chirac and arafart had an affair??

  • By the way – ins’t it a bit, I dunno, passe, saying “but of course they’re antisemites! They eat frogs!”

  • Thanks, Michael, for the update to Laya’s original post.

    Unfortunately, it seems that Rashi and Rav Feinstein’s rulings have been cast to the wayside here. Strange, isn’t it, that many who wave the Rav Feinstein banner when it comes to recognizing Conservative conversions think that he was just joking when it comes to eating veal…

    And don’t kid yourself that the only unnatural effect of “gavage” is a really big liver; the force feeding often has the effect of turning the last portion of these poor birds’ intestinal tracts literally inside-out- find some pictures if you want to see the literal definition of treyfe(“torn”).

    No, foie gras is definitely not Jewlicious. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg- we really have to be honest about veal production and factory farming methods, too. Those are also not Jewlicious. Are we ready for the challenge, or shall we just complain about the “easy target”?

  • Who said anything about eating frogs other than you?

    And it is my God-given right to besmirch California! And I will do it until my life is pried from my cold dead hands!

  • I don’t even know how to pronounce foie gras.
    I don’t eat anything that has a French name. French bread, French toast, and French fries don’t count.

  • Yes, the ban on force-feeding was mentioned in the original post…

    Roman, if they can call Israel “that shitty little country,” I can at least make fun of them on a blog. If France is as glorious as the French make it out to be, I’m sure the insults of one sale juif won’t bring it down.

  • Shmuel, it’s “foyee grah”.

    Thankfully, Michael chooses to post this on 7/13. Tomorrow, tout le monde is a Frenchman, n’est-ce pas?

  • Sorry client, I am a native french speaker and I just assumed the rolled, guttural french R. Either that or I determined that it was a pronunciation beyond what a standard, typically unilingual American is capable of.

  • We don’t want that. I have gmail open now – jewlicious [at] gmail [dot] com, send me your phone number and I’ll call ya up (I have an IP phone). Please don’t cry!!

  • I suppose the best way to avoid guilt after eating fancy french chopped liver or veal shnitzel is to eat shrimp and lobster instead?!

  • Learning to avoid the gag reflex is really important but I suppose that goes under the “let’s talk about sex” post…

  • ck pls talk to tm this thing b/w u n him s been going for too long. i beg u call him now!
    and how is yr native french claim work w/ yr biography? u ve learnt french in a cave? while spitting?

  • My Parents were born in Morocco, a country where French is the 2nd language for most, especially the Jews. Also I live in Montreal, where everyone speaks French. Also I lived in Paris for nearly 2 years after college. OK?

  • I have seen this in Israel, don’t they sell it at the airport also? I have yet to eat this, but maybe soon I will be taking a much needed vaca in Israel G-d willing.
    Peace,
    Jobber

  • The people claiming the birds get used to it are full of sh*t.

    Has anyone EVER heard of an animal running away from food? Most domesticated animals get very attached to mealtimes and to the humans who feed them.

    Well, these geese see the feeding-hose guy coming, and they RUN to the other side of the pen. I have seen video of this.

    Rashi is so Jewlicious – he took the measure of the medieval French and their selfish cruel ways.

    And yes, veal production.

    And YES, factory farming of chickens. Have you ever seen it? Disgusting.

    Here’e the kicker: most suburban people could keep 1-2 chickens on their 1/4 acre property with no problem no noise (you can buy only female chicks) and no smell – the awful smell comes from the factory-farming of hundreds of chickens in close confinement.

    Our ancestors cultivated these birds because they ate human scraps and waste food, and produced eggs – while killing bugs. Now we use chemical fertilizers and pesticides to produce artificial landscapes-on-steroids while getting eggs from chicken penitentiaries. What a world.

  • Where can I find R’ Feinstein’s opinion about veal, and the comment qouted from Rashi?

  • Hmmm, a public threat of tears, why didn’t I think of that?
    ck, please get in touch, or me & all your clients are gonna organise a mass synchronised weeping webcast. Watch this space!

  • I’m not sure if getting in touch to say you’ll get in touch later really counts. But, it’ll take me a while to set up the webcast, so you get lucky. For now.

  • I remember on one of the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” episodes it was done for a married man, and they kept pointing out that this family’s kitchen was kosher, and the guy in charge of food was *so* excited that he found a place in the US with kosher foie gras… when this guy played host to friends and family, they all made faces when they tasted it, the kosher foie gras was not such a hit for them. (I’ve also seen veal on the menu at a kosher restaurant, but decided that it wouldn’t be right no eat it.)

  • I think we need something like “fry eye for the frum guy” cuz some of these Yids out there could really use some help

  • Great Idea Laya!!
    CK could be the queer clothing designer now we just need three more hosts

  • I dont think Reb Moshe actually rules this way but it is claimed that he was thinking that the manner in which the veal are handled in this way was wrong. It is a debate between Tzar Baalei Chaim, Cruelty to animals, and a notion that man has to rule over animals, incl. killing them. It has some connection to the sacrifices also. Personally it doesn’t work for me to eat meat most of the time only on special occasions and usually chicken then.

  • I don’t keep kosher, but foie gras has always been on my “tastes like pain” menu…I eat meat, try to go local-farm and not factory, but don’t eat veal or most cheeses because the process, to me, is disgusting. Good to know I’ve got a rabbi or 2 backing me up 🙂

  • You realise of course, Michael, that your generalising of the French makes you as bad as any racist? I’m not even talking about political correctness here, I’m just saying that you’re supporting the stereotype of the French being antisemitic. Not very nice.

  • I love the logo at the top of the page! Jewilicious 100%kosher. That’s great. got any t-shirts?

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