Dale Rice and Foie Gras Debate in Austin

Dale Rice had blog post yesterday foreshadowing his Statesman article today about foie gras. I was the first to comment on the blog post, which was followed by the typical uninformed anti-foie gras blather. I tried to continue posting over there, but I can’t stand waiting for comments to appear and you can’t use HTML (thanks, Statesman).

This is a debate that’s already been going on around the country for the past year or so. Chefs Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman are at the forefront defending foie gras when a ban was threatened in NYC. There’s a Salon article from last year, a Ruhlman post on Megnut and several more on his own blog.

So now the debate is here (6-12 months behind the rest of the country as usual) and I have to deal with it.

I happen to not just like foie gras. I love it. I only get a chance to eat it once or twice a year, but it’s not for Noah Cooper and his cronies to decide whether or not I can have it. I’d like to know how many foie gras farms he’s personally visited? How many commercial poultry farms or commercial pork farms like Smithfield, which was profiled in Rolling Stone recently? Has he read Omnivore’s Dilemma? I have. It made me switch from eating commercially produced beef to trying to find grass-fed alternatives.

I made that choice. Am I on a campaign to get Austin restaurants to stop serving steak? No. So stay the hell away from my foie gras.

13 Comments so far

  1. not_saying (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 9:06 pm

    Let’s see. A special interest group is going to get the government to ban something in private businesses. That kind of reminds of another ban that went into effect in Austin two years ago this September. As I recall, this blog was for THAT ban, despite the idea that it was a slippery slope, and that the State wouldn’t stop at banning smoking but would go on and ban other things, too.

  2. EgOiStE (unregistered) on June 13th, 2007 @ 9:26 pm

    First they came for the smokers. Then they came for the trans fats. Now they’re coming for the foie gras.

  3. Shilli (unregistered) on June 14th, 2007 @ 9:42 am

    Smoking and trans fats are both harmful to the person ingesting them. Foie gras is not (at least no more so than ice cream or bacon). Smoking is also harmful to people nearby. Trans fats are included in all kinds of foods without the diner knowing they are there. No one unknowingly eats foie gras and eating it has no effect on the people at the next table.

    In any case, it doesn’t sound like there is a serious move in Austin or Texas to ban foie gras (or trans fats). If restaurants choose not to serve it or people want to protest, I don’t see a problem with that. I do think restaurants should be required to notify people that they use trans fats. If restaurants were surreptitiously adding foie gras to menu items, I would feel the same way about that.

  4. ttrentham (unregistered) on June 14th, 2007 @ 9:52 am

    Shilli pretty much made my points for me in response to the anonymous coward who posted first.

    I don’t know about the whole blog, but it was me who was arguing for the smoking ban. That situation and this one are different for the reasons posted by Shilli (there are more). It must be nice to live in such a black and white, absolutist world, NOT_SAYING.

  5. NOT_SAYING (unregistered) on June 14th, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

    Gee, I guess I struck a nerve with you there, didn’t I, ttrentham?

    I find ironic that you talk about making choices but deny a business owner from making the CHOICE of permitting smoking in his or her business and deny customers from CHOOSING a smoking or nonsmoking environment. And it terms of black and white and absolutism, smoking has to be banned absolutely everywhere. There can’t be some little dive bar anywhere where patrons can smoke, oh no, it’s got to be all BLACK or all WHITE.

    The mentality behind these bans is “If it has been deemed bad, then it should be banned.” That’s the mentality that you validated with your support of the smoking ban. Those of us who opposed the ban warned that the Nanny State would not stop with smoking, and we were clearly right. And you encouraged them.

    By the way, the idea that second hand smoke is dangerous is junk science. And transfats are no worse for you than any other kind of saturated fats.

  6. Shilli (unregistered) on June 14th, 2007 @ 3:52 pm

    Trans fats are not a kind of saturated fat. They are hydrogenated versions of unsaturated fats. According to Harvard Medical School, they are worse than saturated fat, for example:

    “Metabolic studies have shown that trans fats have adverse effects on blood lipid levels–increasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while decreasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol. This combined effect on the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol is double that of saturated fatty acids.”


    I don’t know anything about second hand smoke, except that it stinks.

  7. NOT_SAYING (unregistered) on June 15th, 2007 @ 8:44 am

    Right, and there other scientists who say transfats are not that big of a deal. Depends on who’s paying for the study.

  8. M1EK (unregistered) on June 15th, 2007 @ 9:35 am

    As for this theory that all bar owners wanted to do was preserve choice – baloney. Their absolutist position had led to all-smoking bars for decades (the only non-smoking bars were those forced to do so by UT or by earlier city ordinance).

    Like with restaurants (a trivial number of non-smoking places before the law) and airlines (no non-smoking airlines before the gov’t intervention), the market wasn’t going to solve this problem itself in a way that consumers found remotely acceptable. And, no, saying “well, you can choose not to ever go to a bar” is not acceptable.

    Instead of working to craft a compromise (one example: high-priced smoking licenses, hopefully leading to a healthy population of both kinds of bars), barowners chose the eighth-grade libertarian perspective that the market must always work and if you think it ain’t working you must not understand the market. They took their chances with the electorate, who has seen how the restaurant business has fared under forcible non-smoking and has loved it, and they lost. Cry me a river; it was easily avoidable.

  9. NOT_SAYING (unregistered) on June 15th, 2007 @ 10:05 am

    And if a special interest group can get the ear of the government and have foie gras banned, so be it, and the free market be damned. The electorate won’t care, foie gras is food for a rich minority. And politicians can score some points with the politically correct. Plus banning it will help level the playing field for restaurants; making it easier for them to compete with rich people’s restaurants. The systems works particularly well when an outside group is well-financed, as the smoking ban advocates were. They can travel from city to city, creating grassroots movements to ban whatever.

  10. NOT_SAYING (unregistered) on June 15th, 2007 @ 10:26 am

    And by the way, bar owner’s did try to craft a compromise with the City. Just ask Bob Cole. Through a series of meetings with the City a compromise WAS crafted. Six months later a group from CA came in and using paid collectors gathered enough signatures for an election. They then outspent the bar owners in advertising by some huge margin.

  11. M1EK (unregistered) on June 15th, 2007 @ 10:52 am

    “Through a series of meetings with the City a compromise WAS crafted.”

    Bull. And, no, I don’t trust Bob Cole or anybody else on your side given the lies about the number of non-smoking bars which supposedly demonstrated the market working (when every single one of them actually went non-smoking because of the UT ban; the restaurant ban; and the under-21 ban).

  12. NOT_SAYING (unregistered) on June 15th, 2007 @ 11:13 am

    Facts are facts. And that IS the history.

    Keep your fingers crossed. The ban can be changed in September. Perhaps smoking on outdoor patios will be banned, as well as in the City parks. That’s what has been happening in CA, where the Nanny State takes it’s cues. There are “studies” coming out now that prove that outdoor second hand smoke is just as dangerous. Bars have been trying to get around the ban by building outdoor patios. They are not doing their part in forcing people to stop smoking.

  13. ttrentham (unregistered) on July 5th, 2007 @ 11:21 am

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