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:
â€œAnimals have no soul,â€ she says, in her rich Gascon accent. â€œGod made ducks to have that liver – and He made it incredibly delicious! Why would it exist if not for us to enjoy it?â€
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.â€
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 â€œa magical experience,â€ the beginning of â€œa love story.â€ After returning to the States, he was stunned to sample foie gras from what was then America’s only producer, California’s Sonoma Valleyâ€”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 grasâ€“friendly terrain. â€œI’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 . . .â€ If Hudson Valley is shut down, Ginor says, he has a fistful of options. Canadian commerce officials have come south to woo him. â€œWe 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.â€
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.