Dan Barber’s “The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food” redounds to the credit of Eduardo Sousa and Diego Labourdette’s non-gavaged foie gras. The practice is currently banned in 20 countries and if history is a guide, it’s entirely possible that my children will look back on the practice as a barbaric method of obtaining some tasty liver. The trend towards building a national consensus against gavage-created, or “ethical,” foie gras in the United States is a movement worth investigating. The grass roots popular opinion changing portion of that movement has been two-tracked with supplemental litigation brought by animal rights groups attempting to coerce, cajole and outright force the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service to interpret the Poultry Products Inspection Act (21 USC §§ 451-72) in a manner that bans gavage-created foie gras. Filing a petition with FSIS in 2007, the activists sought to have the fatty livers considered “unhealthful” under the Act and asked the agency to find that force-fed foie gras may trigger secondary amyloidosis. In 2009 FSIS denied the rights activists’ petition and they appealed the administrative decision.
A Federal District Court recently handed FSIS a win declaring the agency’s determinations sound and finding that the agency’s determinations: 1) that there is a difference between fatty livers created by force-feeding birds and fatty-livers (livers with hepatic lipidosis) caused by disease; and 2) finding fault with the arguments that a limited study in mice that found genetically susceptible mice could contract secondary amyloidosis from being injected or fed with “purified and concentrated amyloid fibrils extracted from foie gras” – were not an abuse of its discretion nor were they arbitrary or capricious conclusions drawn from the evidence.
It looks like public sentiment is the track left for the movement, but given Chicago’s near-immediate (2008) repeal of the foie gras ban that got it mocked across the world, perhaps it’s more likely that my children’s children will be the ones condemning gavage.