Food Politics and Foie Gras

Nearly 8 years ago California enacted legislation to ban foie gras from restaurants which went into effect  July 1st. The negative press about foie gras has been countered by a number of restaurants, celebrity chefs, and bloggers  working to educate the public about foie gras, French for “fatty liver”.  These efforts have been met with militant methods that remind one of  “correct thinking” from the cultural revolution.

Foie Gras is made when ducks are feed grain and is  similar to many of my human patients- a diet rich in processed foods, that they take willingly, and are then sacrificed for their liver (the ducks are sacrificed). The humans end up with Non-Alcoholic Hepatitis and ultimately cirrhosis and either liver transplant or death from liver failure (not a kind or easy death). The ducks and geese, by the way, have similar liver failure as the obese livers of humans, if they are not sacrificed early enough. If the fowl develop cirrhosis and liver failure they are no longer fit to consume.  The anti-Foie Gras types like to tell stories of ducks suffering from liver failure – they become comatose, or bleed out, or can’t walk – none of which benefits those who raise the animals for human consumption as those livers are not palatable.

Some California chefs have formed the Coalition for Human and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS) to educate the public about how animals are treated. The Anti- Foie Gras side accuses  farms of force feeding the ducks and geese, while the other side shows how these creatures are not injured or harmed, and their life is quite good. As the time shortens to the ban, restaurants are offering a foie gras a few last times. One restaurant,  Melisse,’s owner and chef Josiah Citrin’s , had a six-course menu with foie gras  in every dish, including dessert.

The only  California farm producing the foie gras has also been the target of animal rights protests. Artisan Sonoma Foie Gras Farm has operated for over 20 years by Guillermo and Junny Gonzalez who interned in France’s Perigord region before opening their farm in Sonoma. As a result of the ban their business will close, leaving people unemployed.

“Our farm is being forced to shut down at the end of June, and the most unfortunate fact is that science has not been given a chance to play a role in this debate,” Guillermo Gonzalez told AFP. “The larger impact however, is that a powerful special interest group with an anti-meat agenda was able to impose its morals on us all,” he added.
He cited a study published in the World’s Poultry Science Journal in 2004, which he said concluded that “based on the extra physiological use of a natural fattening phenomenon, foie gras has been recognized as a non-pathological and non-harmful product. We do not believe that foie gras farming, when done correctly, is harmful or hurtful to a duck,” he added.
The anti- foie gras crowd disagrees, and delight in showing films of ducks running away from the feeders to avoid a fatty liver (if I could get my patients to run away from chain-restaurant food as fast we would not have an obesity epidemic).

Ducks roaming free at Hudson Valley Farm

“It’s not about foie gras,” said John Burton, a former California legislator who wrote the law. “It’s about inhumane treatment of those birds.”
Did you know that  animals were human? Apparently the anti-foie gras have made these creatures human, otherwise how could you be inhumane to them?  But if it is “inhumane” to feed animals as much processed grain as they like, what is it when we feed people?  Much like humans, some domesticated dogs (like Spaniels), varieties of ducks and geese they do not stop eating, but continue to eat past being “full.”

Is not letting the bear get our fish inhumane?

This brings us to  animal rights activists Bryan Pease, a lawyer and founder of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, in San Diego, which has been protesting in front of restaurants where foie gras is still served, “to educate the public about the ban.”  Pease  is also running for city council in San Diego. “We want people to know it’s not this weird thing about banning duck liver,” he said. “It’s the force feeding that’s being targeted.”

Bryan Pease, as a candidate,  had access to voting roles, which he was not suppose to use for harassment, but indeed used those roles to give the home address of one of CHEF’s members, Daniel R Moody – a chef whose blog, details the action.

Chef Dan Moody – at the front lines of the Cultural Revolution in California

Moody, a chef whose love of food has found his public opinions have brought the ire of Bryan Pease. Moody also points out about a number of restaurants that have been “Yelped” – a technique where an organized group of Pease’s Red Army give negative reviews to restaurants that have served foie gras (even if the patron hasn’t been at the restaurant).

Pease’s organizational techniques are similar to the cultural revolution under Mao from 1966, who would identify those individuals and business that didn’t agree with the “correct thinking” and protest, harass, close down, and ultimately harm members.  As such, revealing Moody’s home address has allowed his home to be a target of the “red army” of Pease. Wondering why San Diego would want such a “liberal” on their board?

Foie Grass served with Peanut butter and jelly

In the mean time- Americans everywhere are stuffing their livers with processed foods and becoming fatter (Foie Gras, for the record, does not cause fatty liver). But in San Diego- they want to control what you eat, and how you think about it.

Bottom line-

It appears the friends of ducks would just as soon you give up your rights of privacy in favor of keeping a duck in the wild (where it will typically die a rather miserable death).

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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Latest Comments

  1. Janet Vanderhoof says:

    I’m glad you wrote this. I too have seen terrible videos of ducks being force fed and being so fat they were unable to move. Seeing your photos of them moving around freely gives me relief.

  2. thedoc says:

    As a foodie, we want animals raised in a way that shows we respect that they give their lives for us.

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