THE CONNEXION IS A MONTHLY NEWSPAPER published in France for expats. Last month a foie gras fan wrote to the editor declaring that to say that Pate de Foie Gras was an illness in force-fed geese or ducks was "a blatant
lie." He's wrong. Let us look at foie gras in what might be regarded as the reverse of animal experimentation; for the sake of the animals we can call it human experimentation. Fatty liver occurs in humans, there are three common causes; alcoholic
liver disease, diabetes and obesity.
IN MY LAST VISIT TO THE USA, TO FLORIDA, I was horrified to see whole families, mother, father and two or three children grazing contentedly as they mooched through shopping
malls. Each was carrying a bucket- sized container of cola or the like and munching out of huge bags of chips or some other calorie-packed synthetic delight; one even had two large ice cream cones, whilst licking one she managed with a skill born of practice
to hold on to her bucket and the other cone. Each family member wore a glazed contented look and quite obviously each was morbidly obese.
COULD YOU SAY THEY WERE SUFFERING? No, they weren't, but if you ask, were
they ill? The answer has to be that, yes, they are ill. I am sure that if their livers were scanned every one would show gross fatty infiltration.
FATTY INFILTRATION OF THE LIVER is the beginning of the process
leading to more severe liver disease which culminates in cirrhosis. Obviously geese and ducks don't slurp alcohol and I doubt if they get diabetes. It would also be fair to say that their disease never progresses beyond gross fat infiltration -- they don't
live long enough -- they are slaughtered so that their livers can be taken out, lightly grilled and served as a delicacy.
DO THE GEESE SUFFER? Only if they are forced to live in unhealthy, confined or crowded
conditions. The American family of grazers was not suffering but they weren't enjoying themselves in the sense that you or I would enjoy a good meal, they were satisfying a need which they had acquired through faulty dietary habits. Likewise in defence of
the industry one hears that force-fed free-range geese (they produce the tastiest livers) will, at feeding times, rush to the feeder and open wide their beaks for the insertion of a funnel for the introduction of food under pressure, using a pump or a large
screw -- a system called gavage. Many French will tell you that the geese enjoy it; I don't believe they enjoy their food more than our obese family who temporarily enjoy the pleasurable sensation of fullness but whose lives are dominated by the constant need
to eat. Some states in the US have banned the production of foie gras on humanitarian grounds; can that happen in France? Possibly, but in the distant future. If it was banned now the pro foie gras lobby would be up in arms and the country would be paralysed
by strikes supporting the producteurs.
AS FOR ME? I can live comfortably without the stuff, which I recognise comes from a man-made diseased liver.