Misunderstood: A Foie Gras Follow-up

Foie Gras protest

In the weeks after the foie gras protest, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on the issues, the protest itself, and of course the immense amount of controversy it generated both online and off. The internet – mostly Facebook – was abuzz with status updates about the protest, often from people who care little about the animal rights issues I post so frequently about. This signified something “different” about this particular issue.

From my estimation, the criticism could be characterized into one of three categories: 1) attacking Game was unethical because they’re a small, locally owned and operated restaurant, 2) attacking foie gras is inconsistent because either a) all meat is bad or b) many other restaurants in Louisville also serve foie gras and have been doing so for much longer than Game, 3) protesting people’s food choices is inherently unethical and shouldn’t be done.

Point 3 was often contorted into various condemnations of PETA (“Going to come picket and do their disgusting displays of blood, etc, and how evil everyone is that eats meat, and in particular hunters and their taste for wild game.” link) or how we (the activists) shouldn’t force our views onto others, and that people should be “free to eat whatever they want.” In general I agree with that, although I think the understanding and acceptance of just how food is produced should be a prerequisite before it is consumed. And really, that was the whole point of the foie gras protest: understand how foie gras is produced, and then make a decision. For Game, I felt like the logical choice was to stop serving it, especially after speaking with Adam. For patrons, I feel it’s morally necessary to abstain from eating it unless a plethora of carnistic beliefs are firmly understood within your brain.

To the gawkers and “trolls” that said “well, isn’t all meat bad?!” – Yes, and we addressed that (both Loyd, the co-organizer and myself). In fact, they betrayed their own morality by admitting that point and then not following it up by adopting a vegetarian diet. But that’s not surprising, and we work to educate and combat ignorance in that area every day. Animal lovers, even those who resonate with just dogs and cats, would most likely (with a very high level of probability in my opinion) not be okay with the way 99% of meat is produced in this country. The only consistent choice after that is to abstain from eating it.

The other points I will let Loyd address, in his remarks below. Louisville.com journalist Collette Henderson was on top of things enough to write both an pre- and post-protest piece about the Game debacle that generated some much-needed press for our cause. Wave3’s coverage was laughingly docile, but once again the cognitive dissonance bled through: a man justified his eating of antelope by claiming that even though they are cute, so are cows, and he eats them. Watch it for yourself if you don’t believe me.

Collette’s piece was cut short due to the website’s guidelines (not by her), so the full interview is below. My points made it online in their entirety, which you can read here.

Colette Henderson: What are you primary reasons for targeting Game?

Loyd Coy: Well, the timing was right. Some of our vegan friends who are normally not the protesting type became very up in arms at the presence of foie gras on the menu of this new,young, “hip” restaurant. We didn’t want to lose that momentum and I had been wanting to start a series of monthly protests/actions(second Saturday protests). With the young “hip” demographic of Game and their pricing introducing this cruel dish as well as others(lamb heart burger??) to people previously not very exposed to these types of culinary nightmares, it just made sense to take a stand against it and do our best to inform people of the fact that they are consuming diseased, factory farmed organs of an animal that lived a short life full of suffering and pain.

CH: Were there any attempts by the organizers of this protest to educate the proprietors of Game about the impact of Hudson Valley Farms? In your opinion, how did this conversation go?

LC: Sam did indeed reach out to them. They told us all about their efforts to provide food with “integrity.” when we pointed out with a private letter to them that foie gras is anything but, the only response we saw was a canned statement posted on Facebook from the factory farm provider(Hudson valley) that doesn’t really address the long history of animal abuse investigations, environmental fines, or the fact that so much of the treatment of these birds would be illegal if it were done to an animal protected under the humane slaughter act, which birds are exempt from. The lack of response led us to go ahead with the protest. And take the letter public.

CH: What are the long term and short term goals of this protest?

LC: The long and short term goals are the same in my eyes. To heighten awareness of the cruelty involved, to hopefully sway Game to take foie gras off the menu, to let other eateries and grocers that sell foie gras know that we will be coming for them as well, and to strengthen/publicize the local animal rights/liberation movement.

CH: Has PETA or any of the organizers of this event contacting or protested Hudson Valley Farms directly?

LC: We have not. PETA, Compassion Over Killing, and Animal Equality are at least three animal rights organizations that have conducted investigations at Hudson valley. Every time they have discovered a veritable horror house of animal suffering.  This has led to these organizations and others taking a stand against Hudson Valley.

CH: Aside from this protest, what are other things PETA or the organizers of this event are involved with locally? What would you say to someone who wants to get involved?

LC: PETA, as well as Mercy for Animals, and the Humane Society of the United States are continually involved in all sorts of animal rights business here. Everything from protests to education to legislation is touched by the every day activities of these groups as well as the local group Louisville Vegetarian Initiative. Sam and I both are involved as much as we can be with all of these things on both a local and national level. Sam also writes a pretty amazing blog, The Nail That Sticks Up. Another local activist runs waronanimals.org as for locals who would like to become more involved, a good place to start would be with the Louisville Vegetarian Initiative.

CH: What is your response to the criticism around the attention to Game/Hammerheads (which is reportedly tries to source locally as possible at Hammerheads and prioritizes pastured, free range products) in comparison to the many businesses who exclusively serve CAFO meats in the Louisville metro area?

LC: Well of course a pasture is better than a battery cage or a gestation crate, but to put it simply, there is no such thing as humane meat. All of these animals are looked at as commodities rather than sentient beings. They all end up in the same slaughterhouses. They all meet their fate at the blade or the bolt gun. In the end they all have the ability to live their lives for themselves taken away, for a simple meal. To quote a wise man named Morrissey,

the flesh you so fancifully fry
is not succulent, tasty or kind
it is death for no reason
and death for no reason is MURDER

This quote is true no matter how many buzz words meant to make consumers feel better about the blood on their hands are attached to the carcass.

Also, what’s local, natural, free range, etc about foie gras? Nothing. It doesn’t even go with the theme of this restaurant. To the best of my knowledge there isn’t anything local about kangaroo either.

CH: Any additional comments?

LC: For the readers, please think compassionately when making dining choices. When eating out, please consider one of the many local eateries that offer extensive and delicious plant based options. When shopping please consider if the convenience, entertainment, or taste a product will give you, is worth the suffering an animal put into it.

I want to close by mentioning the other restaurants in Louisville that serve foie gras (with verifying links). Surprisingly, the product is distributed by Creation Gardens which is likely where many of the restaurants are getting it from. It’s my hope that we can put pressure on these companies to stop serving this cruel “delicacy.”

Several resturants were mentioned that I haven’t been able to verify, including: La Coop Bistro (in NuLu), Varanese, The Oakroom (in the Seelbach), and Seviche. If you have info on these or any others, please leave a comment below.