Monday, October 31, 2005

The Gras is Always Greener, Unless it’s Foie

Who’s more powerful, a saint or a knight?  Now, I’m not talking about just any old saint or knight, I mean the guys presently at the top of the heap, the current crème de la crème, as it were.  In today’s world, the most powerful saint has got to be The Pope.  He talks directly to God, after all.  And if you took a straw poll around the office, I’d bet the winner of the knights contest would be Sir Paul McCartney.  If nothing else, he at least thinks he’s a god.

What would happen if it weren’t a contest at all, if instead these two powerhouses decided to pool their collective strength together for a noble cause of some sort?  They would certainly be a formidable “God Squad”.  

The fact of the matter is, they have already teamed up.  Not only that, they have brought in a little earthly muscle, just in case.  Yes, even Arnold Schwarzenegger is on board for this the mightiest of modern crusades.  In a day and age where the world has seen genocide, famine, natural disasters and unjust wars, those closest to God (and Arnie, too) have brought it upon themselves to stand up for that most noble of beasts – the goose.  That’s right, forget about human suffering, our crusaders are out to put an end to the agony of the goose.  They are campaigning for a world wide boycott of foie gras.

For those of you unfamiliar with foie gras, it is a traditional French pate made from the liver of a goose.  The more fat in and around the liver, the more absolutely dreamy the pate becomes.  Needless to say, the temptation arises to “help the goose out” when it comes time to put on a few extra inches.  It is the sometimes crude methodology involved in this process that has caught the attention of the God Squad.

Let’s start with the saint.  Not long ago, Pope Benedict XVI, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was asked about his thoughts on the treatment of animals.  He responded with compassion and called animals our "companions in creation."  He also went on to say:
"we cannot just do whatever we want with them. ... Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible…this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible."

Uh Benny, where on Earth did you read that?  It's common knowledge that God created man in his own image.  The goose was created in the image of a very distant (and somewhat estranged) cousin whose name escapes even the enlightened writings of the Gospels.  Animals were put on earth to serve man, or at least to be served to man, preferably with a lovely Sauterne.

Or so I thought, until Sir Paul came on the scene.  A recent BBC headline caught my eye: “Sir Paul McCartney urges California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to ban the French delicacy foie gras”.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but it’s true.  Read it for yourself at:

How can I argue with Sir Paul?  I suppose, there’s no other recourse than to have a change of heart. Let’s make up for all those years of goose torture, primarily by the evil French, and raise the standard of living for all geese.  Their lives shall be spent roaming the lushest of fields, and sleeping in air controlled comfort on nothing but the finest goose-down silk pillows... Or maybe not.

So why all the fuss?  It wasn’t that long ago that no one outside of France other than members of the foreign legion knew what foie gras was.  In fact, most North Americans can’t pronounce it, let alone know what it is.  It has only been in very recent memory that foie gras has become a mainstay on the menu of any restaurant that also marks up its wine by 300%.  

And that in itself is essentially the problem.  Demand for the super creamy, irresistible stuff has flown the coup, so to speak.  Once a delicacy reserved for French aristocracy, foie gras is now sought after world wide.  The demand has far surpassed the supply that can be produced by a few farms in the Dordogne.  Thus, industrial foie gras production facilities have appeared, many of them in Eastern European countries.  The conditions in these facilities are truly horrific, beginning to rival their North American counterpart, the modern chicken farm.

In the end, that’s what irks me the most about this passionate cry for goose rights.  At the urging of Sir Paul, Arnie is currently calling for a ban on foie gras in California.  I wonder if either of these do-gooders has visited a chicken facility lately?  They don’t even have to go that far.  There’s lots of information right at their (and our) fingertips.  One example is, which has a whole section dedicated to chicken farms.  Some of the depictions of beakless, steroid stuffed chickens penned in three to a cage seem more appropriate in a horror flick.  Yet, I don’t see the Paul and Arnie show calling for a ban on Kentucky Fried Chicken!  And last I checked, there are a hell of a lot more chicken farms around the world than goose facilities.

Maybe “Team Terminator” should use their connections to divinity to tackle the bigger issues in their own back yards.  Ah, but then again, that’s not good for business or politics.  Best to point across the pond and yell “Fowl!”  Oh, and can I get two dozen wings with that?