An Open Letter To Louisville’s “Game” Restaurant

game 2

If you haven’t heard the news on Facebook or elsewhere, a new restaurant called Game opened last month in Louisville. True to its name, it serves mainly “game” meats, including some more exotic ones including kangaroo, ostrich, and wild boar. As disgusting as this is, it’s also insane to me why people have an obsession with weird meats like this. However, the inclusion of foie gras on their menu is a point of contention between myself and the owners. After talking with one of them, Adam, and learning about their source of foie gras, I felt it necessary to write openly about the problems of sourcing and serving foie gras.

Many will condemn this approach for being too narrow: “why don’t you go protest McDonalds too?” they say. We do. “Well, don’t you think all meat is inhumane?” I do, yes. But foie gras is expensive, unnecessary  and supremely cruel. Far beyond raising animals for their flesh, ducks and geese are force-fed and tortured to put them in a diseased state where their liver becomes so fat that it is – for some twisted reason – considered a delicacy. This isn’t right, and I’m urging Game to stop carrying the dish. Read on for why:

Adam,

I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me the other day and explain about the menu items at Game. As we discussed, there are often ethical issues regarding the production of foie gras (fatty liver), and I have found numerous issues with your supplier, Hudson Valley Farms.

In 2007, the farm was fined $30,000 for environmental violations due to spilling manure and other contaminants into a nearby river.

Numerous undercover investigations at this farm have documented severe animal abuse and torture:

A 2008 investigation by Compassion Over Killing documented “…pipes being shoved down their [the ducks] throats and food pumped into their stomachs to being grabbed by their wings, shackled upside down, and their throats slit.”

The “cage-free” claim of Hudson Valley does little to alleviate the pain and suffering of the ducks and geese in question. A doctor of veterinary medicine, Holly Cheever, commented on 2011 footage from Hudson Valley: “Here you can see the animals’ feathers are just tattered…You can see that the feather pieces have come off of the main stem of the feather which indicates they are kept dirty, they’re crowded, their feathers are breaking, and this would be very unnatural. It certainly indicates a poor husbandry and not at all a natural state for ducks to be in.”

In 2009, a reporter from The New York Times documented not the conditions of the animals, but of the workers: “…the underpaid, overworked and often gruesomely exploited farmworkers who feed and otherwise care for the ducks”

In 2009, a distributor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, D’Artagan Inc. was forced to modify the language of its description of the meat, after it was found that the claims “The liver is not diseased, simply enlarged” and “Animals are hand-raised with tender care under the strictest of animal care standards” were not able to be verified by a review of the relevant scientific evidence. This decision, by the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, exemplifies what many veterianarians and other animal welfare advocates have said for decades: foie gras cannot be produced humanely.

There is all of this, in addition to the large body of evidence that production of foie gras is simply inhumane. While Hudson Valley’s website may defend their methods, numerous veterinarians, doctors, and other industry experts disagree. The feed used, at Hudson Valley, for instance, is nutritionally deficient, and “designed to artificially cause hepatic lipidosis.” This “onset of liver stetosis” (fatty degeneration) can manifest as up to 50% or 60% fat content in the liver of the diseased, force-fed bird. By comparison, the liver of a healthy duck or goose is approximately 5%. This evidence is referenced extensively in a 2012 document prepared by the Humane Society.

This report also details other numerous problems with foie gras production, including injuries sustained during feeding, aversion to force-feeding in the ducks themselves, lameness in the birds, exaggerated mortality, and other issues. In addition, the report debunks all of the claims made by Hudson Valley on their website, such that the birds are not harmed in the process, or that they would eat that much naturally.

Adam, in our discussion on this week, you said that serving food with integrity was important to you, and that coming from a family of hunters, serving and eating game meats made sense. Foie gras does not fit this description: it is an antiquated “delicacy” from French culture that does not fall into the sportsmen-like terms of hunting and food sourcing that you refer to both with your family history, and with the title of your restaurant. Ducks and geese that are crammed into warehouses, force-fed unnatural amounts of food, and slaughtered well before their natural life span cannot possibly qualify as food with “integrity.”

In addition, you stated your disdain for factory farms and modern production methods of “standard” meats like chicken. While I share your concern about CAFOs and large scale agriculture farming, Hudson Valley is nothing more than a factory farm in disguise. The cruelty documented numerous times, along with the large body of evidence that foie gras production is hell on these sensitive birds puts no mincing of words around the fact that this is animal abuse.

With sincerity you told me that you are an animal lover, and it is with that sentiment that I’m asking you to remove foie gras from your menu.

Foie gras production has also been outlawed in the U.K., Germany, the Czech Republic, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Denmark, and most recently in our own state of California. In fact, California producers were given a full eight years to come up with an alternative to the cruel force-feeding (gavage). No method was found, and the ban remains today (see http://tnl.su/YEnvwr for more info).

In closing, I find most powerful a quote from Justice E. Rivlin, one of the justices in 2003 who moved forward Israel’s complete ban on the production of foie gras. He writes, in the verdict,

As for myself, there is no doubt in my heart that wild creatures, like pets, have emotions. They were endowed with a soul that experiences the emotions of joy and sorrow, happiness and grief, affection and fear. Some of them nurture special feelings towards their friend-enemy: man. Not all think so; but no one denies that these creatures also feel the pain inflicted upon them through physical harm or a violent intrusion into their bodies. Indeed, whoever wishes to may find, in the circumstances of this appeal, prima facie justification for the acts of artificial force-feeding, justification whose essence is the need to retain the farmer’s source of livelihood and enhance the gastronomic delight of others…. But this has a price — and the price is reducing the dignity of Man himself. (src)

Thank you for your time,

[signed]

  • Bora Rhee

    “The liver is not diseased, simply enlarged” …  “Animals are hand-raised with tender care under the strictest of animal care standards”

    Foul, hateful treatment of helpless animals is disgusting and disturbing, yet equally so, and just as heartbreaking, is commitment to ignorance displayed in the above statements.

    And that’s the most disturbing image I’ve ever seen.  In broad daylight, too.  Is that their signage?  A sawblade?  Baffling how someone can look at that and still retain their appetite…  You’re right: “Hudson Valley is nothing more than a factory farm in disguise.”

    • http://www.thenailthatsticksup.com/ Sam

      In fairness to Game, I believe it is a chain ring from the previous owners of the building, Cycler’s Cafe.

  • http://twitter.com/BelleilaD Leila DiFazio

    Being an animal lover myself, I understand your point of view. Also, I will add that I DO NOT LIKE foie gras. Regardless, I think that your article and claims are a bit one-sided. I don’t think that you, as you appear to be a vegetarian/vegan, have much right to smack talk Game as a restaurant. It’s clear that you interviewed Adam with the sole purpose to make claims against his integrity and to publicly jab at his personal views on hunting/animal rights. I’m sure all of your vegan, activist friends are giddy with excitement over what you wrote, but at what price? I mean, what are YOU doing personally to change things about foie gras production?!? Complaining over the internet? It’s of my opinion that you’d have better luck protesting at Hudson Valley or the government itself than deterring locals from a new restaurant that has AMAZING food (foie gras not included). Keep in mind that the people who work at Game, and the owners themselves, are good people trying to make an honest living. It is not their fault that foie gras exists and is available in our state. Seriously, reconsider what good is actually coming from what you write. To me this blog seems to simply be a place for vegan, vegetarians, and cyclists to complain about normal people and feel better about yourselves from doing so. 

    • Steeleman82

      “It is not their fault that foie gras exists and is available in our state.”

      It is their fault if they continue to pay the people that create it. I personally felt like this article was very fair to Adam and his restaurant and instead pointed its criticisms at Hudson Valley and the ethics of producing foie gras. Adam now has the opportunity to act on this information as he chooses.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1629985362 Jimmy Flaherty

      Your argument that someone may have better luck protesting Hudson Valley or the government are completely backwards. Being the vegan/vegetarian/cyclist community is so much smaller than the “normal people” counterpart, albiet not nearly as small as you perceive, any small community looking to insight change will have better luck from the bottom up. 

    • April

      ” I mean, what are YOU doing personally to change things about foie gras production?!? Complaining over the internet? It’s of my opinion that you’d have better luck protesting at Hudson Valley or the government itself than deterring locals from a new restaurant that has AMAZING food (foie gras not included). ”

      We DO go to the government and protest the abuse they allow. You are welcome to attend the KY state care standards commission meetings with us in Frankfort, where we ask for better care standards for the animals raised in our state. (KY will now faze out veil crates as a result!)
      We also organize and attend protests right outside of factory farms, other restaurants and companies.  We started a non-profit and educate others on how to make changes in your health and community. We volunteer our time and our own money to change animal’s and people’s lives.

      Sorry in advance for any gramatical or spelling errors! :)

  • Fish_stick_13

    Just so we are clear, the nail that sticks up, get hammered down.. That’s the Japanese proverb your going offi

    • Mygiant Agj

       I believe that’s the point: he’s the nail that is sticking up, still protruding, not being nailed down.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=210600716 Casey Truman

        The proverb that he is referring to is the Japanese equivalent to “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” in other words, if you cry about something enough, regardless of whether you’re right or not, you’re going to get attention. I personally feel like this is a very appropriate name for the blog. 

        • Mygiant Agj

           I would encourage you to research more on this topic, as these two proverbs are not equivalent.

          “The squeaky wheel gets the oil” basically means that if someone clamors for attention loudly enough they will get it – as in they want something, and are given that thing. “The nail that sticks out is hammered down” means that if you do not conform to the rest of society (aka the nails) then you will be hammered down to match the rest of them – as in they do not want to be identical, but are forced to be identical. This is a popular proverb in Japan because of how ubiquitous conformity is within the Japanese culture.

          Even a 5 second google search will show you the disparate meaning of the two. Written about “The squeaky wheel” via Wikipedia: “Culturally, the adage contrasts with that of the Japanese proverb,
          “The stake that sticks up gets hammered down”, or “The nail that stands
          out gets pounded down,” illustrating cultural differences between the
          West and East.[5]”

        • Mygiant Agj

           So you’re right, it is a very appropriate name for this blog – just for the opposite reason you thought you were stating. Good try though.

    • http://www.thenailthatsticksup.com/ Sam

      Hi fish stick – if you want to learn about exactly why I choose the title, please see my first post, “Inception:”

      http://thenailthatsticksup.com/2010/08/05/inception/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1558615906 Nicholas Owens

    So i just googled “louisville restaurants foie gras.” In the first page alone I came across 5 different long-standing and well-established restaurants that currently serve foie gras. Where are the open letters to Jack Fry’s or Corbett’s or Jeff Ruby’s? Game has been open for maybe a month now. Jack Fry’s has probably been serving foie gras for 20 years.  Jeff Ruby’s is one of several restaurants owned by namesake Jeff Ruby.  610 Magnolia’s head chef was on a nationally syndicated television show about cooking. Yet, you make a point to protest a business that has been open for a few weeks and is owned and operated by a couple of twenty-somethings. Then, when said business owner has the decency of character and respect to meet with you and discuss your point of contention, you proceed to put him on blast via your blog after you deem his response unsatisfactory to your demands. In short, you are completely and entirely bereft of any moral high ground in this situation, regardless of whatever righteousness you deem inherent to your beliefs. Additionally, you are a coward. If you want to make trouble for a business because one particular aspect of its function hits your self-righteous indignation G-spot, how about starting with the big dogs who have become institutions in the local dining scene rather than a couple of young guys still trying to make it for themselves? I’ve no interest in trying to convert you to an omnivorous diet or criticize your own dietary choices. To each their own. But do realize that by condemning someone for failing to meet your personal standards for how you want to live your life in the way they live theirs makes you no different than any conservative or religious zealot.

    • Mygiant Agj

      It seems that one good reason to ask Game to modify their menu is exactly because they are new, therefore their menu is more pliable than those of long-standing businesses that have had items on their menu “for 20 years.” Wouldn’t you agree? There are many protests that take place against businesses here – and across the world – that torture and mistreat animals. Why should Game be secluded merely because it is new, and run by “a couple of twenty-somethings”?

      Also, if you believe that putting people “on blast via [his] blog” is the only thing Sam does to stand up for the fair treatment of all sentient beings, this must be the first time you’ve been to his website.

      Let me see if I understand your last sentence correctly: Standing up against the torture, mutilation, forced-imprisonment, etc. of sentient beings is akin to killing people for not having the same invisible leader as you do? Akin to making it illegal to take Plan B, even in the instance of rape? I’m sorry, but I don’t follow your logic. Standing up for life and freedom is not the same as taking away those very things, no matter what you tell yourself. I’ve seen animals save humans lives, why would I treat you differently than a dog? Or Goose, as it were.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1558615906 Nicholas Owens

        No, I would not agree. It’s obvious from the very opening of this essay that the writer has a very real and personal contempt for this establishment, calling its cuisine “disgusting” and the “obsession” of their clientele with eating it as “weird.” This has nothing to do with the pliability of the menu and everything to do with the thinking that they will be far easier to intimidate and therefore acquiesce. As far as the many protests that take place here, that’s absolute and total bullshit. The reason this little short bus jamboree has gotten the level of attention it has is because of the uniqueness of the situation.  I’m not saying Game should be secluded. I’m saying you and anyone else that believes protesting this establishment will predicate results is going to be regarded with the same ambivalence you rightfully deserve as your argument is gutless and your tactics are bush league. 

        And just like religious zealots, you read into my last sentence exactly what you wanted to, taking up a straw-man argument rather than addressing the issue at hand. In order to follow the logic of someone else, let alone logic at all, that entails at least a cursory level of applying it to your own actions and statements.  If you had your way, you’d take away the freedom of people to choose what they wanted to eat for themselves.  Regardless, the only thing that is going to come of this is that people are going to regard your cause with the same ambivalence as any other group that lords their particular ideology over others. Oh, and I’m going to probably have to wait longer to get a seat at the bar because the press this little dog and pony show is generating is going to have the line going down the street. 

        • Mygiant Agj

           Can you explain to me how my statement about the other protests held here in Louisville (against KFC, McDonalds, YUM! Brands HQ, etc.) is “absolute and total bullshit”? I imagine the hundreds of people at those protests/boycotts throughout the years would argue against your point. Also, I take umbrage with your claim that peaceful protesting and boycotting are “gutless.” It seems to me that these two methods of action have indeed changed the course of many events throughout history, and it takes a person of “guts” to stand up to those people who walk or drive by and hurl insults and vitriol at them similar to what you are doing (quite gutlessly, when you think about it) here on this internet page.

          Given such a equivocal statement as you made regarding animal rights activists and conservative/religious zealots, was I not intended to read into it exactly as I would have? For a man who argues that the OP has no “high ground,” you certainly seem to preach from a level you hold above ours. I understand how you might think we are fighting against your freedoms of eating what you want, but the fact is that we are fighting for the freedoms of living, feeling, expressing animals to live without torture and imprisonment.

          I am all for calm, collected debates about a topic, but you seem to be lost in your own opinions and rage, much like you chide the OP for.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1558615906 Nicholas Owens

            If a couple of crust punks and a middle aged hippy standing outside of KFC on Baxter with poster board signs classifies as a legitimate protest then I guess the handful of tents that were downtown for the Bolshevik Revolution that was “Occupy Louisville” also caused some drastic changes in society as well. Meanwhile, as someone that has lived in the Highlands and worked in these various flesh-market dens of iniquity, no one gives a flying fuck about what you think or why you think it. Not the owners, not the employees, and certainly not the customers who spend millions of dollars every year. 

            The reason people hurl insults and vitriol at you isn’t because they are rage filled, angry, carnivores. And as far as calling me gutless, hi, my name is Nicholas Owens. That is my picture right there to the right. Clicking on the link will take you to my Facebook page. You, person hiding anonymously behind a screen name, are gutless. Im not scared to say what I think and let people know that I am saying it. You’re hiding. Anyhow….

            The reason people hurl insults at you is because you put ducks and cows above other human beings.  You would happily shut down a slaughter house to save the pigs but dont have an answer when it comes to finding jobs for the 900 people that business employed. You want to coerce a new business into changing to suit your morals and are trying to do so through the intimidation of protest i.e. threatening their personal and financial futures over what? the comfort level of birds?  You don’t eat milk because its unfair to the cows yet when it comes to labor laws, fair wages, immigration reform, unions, and on and on and on regarding the issues that affect the human beings that are picking all of the vegetables you people eat, its a non issue because…geese are dying uncomfortably 900 miles away in New York?  

            Your poor, sad-face cow being liberated is my neighbor losing their job. This is why people don’t like you. 

          • http://twitter.com/Vegan_Giant Andrew Johnson

            The argument (which has been made time and time again) that people who call for fair treatment of non-human animals don’t care about human animals is baseless. How do you know that I’m not involved with organizations to raise the minimum wage? to protect against violence toward all people? to bring awareness to genocide? You don’t, obviously, because I am involved in those organizations. Being a supporter of rights for one species does not preclude a person from supporting the rights of other species. So if you choose to hate based upon illogical ideas such as this, you prove yourself both irate and obtuse.

            Seeing as I never claimed to be diametrically opposed to “gutless,” calling me out on hiding hardly seems to be addressing the point I did make: protesting and boycotting is certainly not a gutless move. I’ve had countless individuals hurl not only insults but also garbage from passing cars as I peacefully picketed outside of locations such as the KFC you mentioned. It takes guts to stand up to ignorance and abuse, and trying to convince people otherwise seems pathetic. The reason for these pickets is to bring awareness to the general public of what happens to the animals they are eating. Based upon the media coverage of the Game protest alone, I would say quite a few Louisvillians know more about the production of foie gras than they did before, so the protest can be deemed a success.

            Again, you don’t seem to be able to come up with a retort that isn’t laced with profanity, generalizations, and generally poor arguments. How unfortunate. If you manage to come up with any legitimate, reasonable responses, I’ve stopped “hiding” so feel free to contact me.

  • Joel

    I am from Kentucky but no longer live there, and the comments by Nicholas and a couple others remind me exactly why I won’t return.  He obviously cares more about his own belly getting filled with whatever piece of meat/organ/eyeball that comes along than giving a DAMN about what happens to the animal before it reaches his very limited palate.  Shame!! 

    The purpose of this blog post is to bring awareness to cruelty.  Cruelty that most sane people would object to.  Some people will to to any length to demonize those who are trying to make this world a more compassionate place.  For what? 

    This world is slowly becomming a more compassionate place for animals despite creeps like Nicholas.

    • TJ Burgin

       I’d love to know what remote island you’ve relocated to that doesn’t have fast food restaurants, since you can’t/won’t live somewhere where people indulge in inhumanely raised animal products.  And to say that someone has a limited palate to enjoy things that you don’t is beyond ignorant.  There are at least a dozen restaurants in Louisville serving foie gras.  If you include places that serve products from Hudson Valley Foie Gras, e.g., duck fat, duck breasts, duck legs, that number would easily triple.

      If the purpose of this blog is to bring awareness about, why does a search, I went back to the first posting I could find on this website (august 2010) while searching ‘Louisville’ (because a search for foie only turned up four posts, clearly it’s a cause Sam is worried about) and saw no mention of any other restaurants being protested for serving foie.  

      Forcefeed opinions, not ducks.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1558615906 Nicholas Owens

      Ad hominem arguments are the mark of a true debater. My lamb heart sandwich i had the other day was delicious btw. 

  • Mandy

    Go Sam Go!

  • Msprofesora

    I am impressed that the writer took the time to speak with a restaurant owner and did not write until informing himself.
    But, with new health warnings about meat eating coming in almost daily, why is this still a topic of controversy?  How long will it take before people want to be healthy?  

  • Shrryph

    Veganism is an artificial lifestyle and an artificial morality. Vegans are completely dependent on their produced vitamins, supplements, and processed foods. If it came down to it and the “lights went off,” there would be no choice other than to resume the natural practice of humans consuming animal products for survival and to flourish. 

    • Msprofesora

      Hello, Shrryph,
      The vegan diet requires very few processed foods.  We eat fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.  I admit someone harvested and “processed” most of the grains, nuts and seeds for me.  But packaged goods:  very rare, although they are certainly available.  Having time to cook IS an advantage. 
      I don’t live near Louisville, but know anyone there can get delicious vegan food at a wonderful array of restaurants.
      Current research tends toward the theory that the use of fire, not the eating of meat, is what made modern humans.  Investigations continue.

      • Shrryph

        I would agree, the diet does depend on the individual. It’s important and healthy to eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Everyone should eat more of those things. But the fats and proteins found in animal products fuel the body much more efficiently. Not to mention vitamin B-12, something absolutely vital to human health, and only found in animal products or you must take supplements. When you don’t have the leisure to sit back and welcome man’s science into your diet, it is clear there is nothing unnatural or immoral about consuming animals. You can’t say that it is, take advantage of our ability provide these alternatives and then turn around and claim animals are every bit as worthy as humans? See the problem there?

        Also, I’m not sure what throwback current research you’ve been reading, but the prevailing theory is that one of the main reasons humans evolved such large and complex brains was precisely because they ate so much meat.

        • Shrryph

          Also, I realize all that mind sound harsh and I do apologize. The question of whether to be vegetarian, vegan, or omnivorous is a personal one. There is nothing wrong with your own actions of how you believe you can do right in the world. We all have different paths. If being vegan makes you feel comfortable, fine. But to be self-righteous and harbor the feeling that other people just need to understand and be “converted” to the “right way” is absurd.

  • Msradell

    I just don’t understand protesting this. If people don’t want it they will vote with their wallets by not eating it. If they want it or any other food that a minority of people consider to be politically correct, they will find it someplace. All that this restaurant and others that serve Foie Gras are doing is providing food that the public wants. People that like this or any other meat don’t complain about what vegetarians or vegans eat, so why should it works the other way around?

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