The Northwest Animal Rights Network held a protest against foie gras outside Capitol Hill restaurant Lark last night from 7 to 8 p.m. About a dozen people were lined up on the sidewalk facing Lark's large windows, chanting slogans about death. One protester wore a goose (or duck?) costume. Patrons inside ignored the hubbub, while the host stood looking grim with arms folded.
NARN intends to protest at Lark "EVERY FRIDAY 7-8PM UNTIL THEY REMOVE FOIE GRAS FROM THE MENU." Lark chef/owner John Sundstrom has not yet returned a call for comment.
Last weekend PBS aired Rick Steves's show on the Dordogne region of France, in which he visits a goose farm in the unbelievably beautiful countryside and watches geese being force-fed. The process is shown, briefly: The farmer grabbing a goose, sticking a long tube down its gullet, holding it for a moment, then removing the tube. The goose then just waddled away. It did not appear at all traumatic and was not particularly troubling to watch—if you've spent any time on a farm or ranch, you've seen "worse" (e.g., butchering, branding, castrating). Video of the segment doesn't seem to be available on the internet, but here's a piece Steves wrote about the experience.
Denis rhythmically grabs a goose by the neck, pulls him under his leg and stretches him up, slides the tube down to the belly, and fills it with corn. He pulls the trigger to squirt the corn, slowly slides the tube up the neck and out, holds the beak shut for a few seconds, lets that goose go, and grabs the next....
Nathalie meets tourists — mostly French families — who show up each evening at 6:00 to see how their beloved foie gras is made. The groups stroll the idyllic farm as Nathalie explains how they raise a thousand geese a year. She stresses the key to top-quality foie gras is happy geese raised on quality food in an unstressed environment. They need quality corn and the same feeder.
I join the group as scatter seed for the baby geese. We stroll into the grassy back lot where the older geese run free. Backlit by the low early-evening sun, they glow in rich colors....
Nathalie, like other French enthusiasts of la gavage, says that while their animals are calm, in no pain, and are designed to take in food this manner, American farm animals are typically kept in little boxes and fed chemicals and hormones to get fat. Most battery chickens in the US live less than two months and are plumped with hormones. Her geese are free range and live six months.
Dordogne geese live lives at least as comfy as other farm animals (that people so upset with the foie gras process have no problem eating) and are slaughtered as humanely as any non-human can expect in this food-chain existence.
On the program, Steves proceeds from the goose farm to a restaurant with a patio on the world's most picturesque river, where he eats three kinds of foie gras and looks damn happy about it.
Groups like NARN should focus on larger issues—the practices and environmental impact of giant agricultural corporations like Tyson and Hormel, for instance. Other animals are suffering; geese raised for foie gras, humanely treated, are not.