Ducking A Foie Gras Ban

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - January 11, 2006
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Animal rights activists are never around when you need them. Personally, I’d like to see them dedicating their efforts to stopping the misguided folks at the back of Mariner’s Valley in Hawaii Kai from feeding wild pigs and encouraging them to come down into the residential area where they are now easy targets for pig hunters. Instead, they’re going after an age-old industry and trying to dictate what goes on your plate.

Farm Sanctuary, America’s largest animal rights group, is introducing a bill in Hawaii to ban the sale and production of foie gras.

Foie gras production has always been a touchy subject. Mention the words “force feeding” and “metal tubing in the gullet” to most people and they’d rather order tongue from a menu. I’ve always thought it was a horrible practice, too, along with dozens of other ways that animals are treated in regard to the production of food.

But the issue here is about who has the right to decide what goes on a restaurant menu, the chef or a politically active group?

Dean Okimoto, president of The Hawaii Farm Bureau and an active promoter of agriculture in Hawaii, has this to say: “This is just another case of people who do not understand agriculture and farming. Procedures are not done to be inhumane; docking the tails of milking cows, for example (another practice the group is campaigning against), is done for reasons of health and sanitation. This group would have that banned too - and then who would be able to drink milk?”

D.K. Kodama, one of Hawaii’s most popular chefs and owner of six restaurants in the islands, adds, “For me personally it would be a really sad day when people start banning foods and telling chefs what they can and cannot serve.”

The Hudson Valley Foie Gras Company would be most affected by the ban, and Patrick Hooker, the director of The New York Farm Bureau, has this to say: “The business of raising ducks for this purpose includes hand feeding during a limited period of time. Many are not aware, however, that because ducks normally gorge themselves before migration, they have a callous-like surface in their throat that allows them to be safely and humanely fed in this manner. In fact, the practice of hand-feeding ducks for foie gras production has been in existence for thousands of years, as the early Egyptians were the first to discover and utilize this practice.”

Whether you like the practice or not, love foie gras or hate it, the topic of discussion is surely that allowing the Legislature to ban one animal production practice opens the door to banning more.

I’ve never eaten veal because I can’t stand the way the calves are farmed - but I’m not going to boycott restaurants that serve it, or tell you that you shouldn’t eat it. (I can barely get my son to stop eating Tootsie Rolls).

As Dean Okimoto says, “This is about people pushing an agenda that says ‘what is good for us has to be good for you too.’ Hey, I’m a farmer of vegetables - if anyone should be on the side of promoting vegetarianism in a business sense then it should be me - but this is not right. It’s not the American way.”

D.K. Kodama agrees. “Dictating what we can and cannot eat is like living in a communist country,” he says.

For or against? You decide - and if you want to take action and see how you can get involved, then e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

I know one thing, the first time someone gets gored by a hand-fed wild pig in Hawaii Kai, the animal activists, who abhor hunting, will be nowhere to be found.

Happy eating!

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