"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Chicago Nannies Ban Foie Gras—Steaks, Potatoes Next?

The Chicago City Council, in its infinite wisdom and benevolence, has banned the sale of foie gras, arguing that some producers of the delicacy force-feed the geese from which the liver pate is produced, which the Chi solons say is painful and inhumane.

Defying a Chicago city ban on the sale of the delicacy, BJ's Market & Bakery's owner John Meyer prepares sauteed foie gras with with a foie gras cornbread dressing special Tuesday at his South Side restaurant. Chicago Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante, Aug. 22, 2006


Chicago mayor Richard Daley opposed the ordinance but it went into effect anyway. The New York Times reports that many people in the city are embarrassed and angered by the law:

On Tuesday, this city’s lawbreakers were serving foie gras.

The illicit substance could be spotted in places it was rarely seen when it was legal: buried in Chicago’s famed deep-dish pizza, in soul food on the South Side, beside beef downtown.

In one of the more unlikely (and opulent) demonstrations of civil disobedience, a handful of restaurants here that never carry foie gras, the fattened livers of ducks and geese, featured it on the very day that Chicago became the first city in the nation to outlaw sale of the delicacy.

“This ban is embarrassing Chicago,” said Grant DePorter of Harry Caray’s Restaurant, which dreamed up an appetizer of pan-seared foie gras and scallops ($14.95) and a Vesuvio-style entree pairing foie gras and tenderloin ($33.95) just to buck the new ordinance. “We really don’t think the City Council should decide what Chicagoans eat. What’s next? Some other city outlaws brussels sprouts? Another outlaws chicken? Another, green beans?”

The "offense" is subject to fines of $250 to $500, though there remains some question about how aggressively the city will enforce it. The alderman who sponsored the ban, Joe Moore, has been the subject of praise from animal rights activists and derision from restaurateurs, gourmands, and people generally concerned about erosions of individual liberty in the City of Big [Government Looking Over Your] Shoulders.

The law has already induced mockery from outside the city, according to a Chicago Tribune story:

Allen Sternweiller, executive chef and co-owner of Allen's New American Cafe, whose company is a plaintiff in the restaurant association's lawsuit, said Chicago is getting an unwanted reputation based on its proposals regarding trans fat and foie gras.

"Some of my colleagues (around the country) call Chicago 'The Nanny City,'" Sternweiller said.

The prospect of foie gras speakeasies and gang wars over rights to distribute the delicacy is amusingly farfetched, but the increasing number of things being banned by the Nanny City and other places makes a greater flouting of the laws a certainty at some point.

From Karnick on Culture.

8 comments:

James Elliott said...

Sorry, S.T., but this post is poorly reasoned.

This is not an example of a "nanny state." A "nanny state" prevents you from hurting yourself. Banning bacon casserole because it is full of fat is the action of a "nanny state." Banning foie gras because one believes it is produced in a cruel manner follows precisely the kind of logic posters here have demonstrated elsewhere - legislation enforcing a community standard of morality, as represented by the morality of their elected representatives.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

I'll have to agree somewhat with James.

This action is not too dissimilar to the boycotting/banning of products that are made in so-called "sweat shops."

The real issue here, I believe, is who gets to decide what is humane and what is inhumane ... or how humane/inhumane is determined.

James Elliott said...

Personally, I have no pony in the foie gras debate. I don't eat it because I don't like it, not because I get bent out of shape over the treatment of Daffy's cousins. That road leads to the denial of delicious osso bucco.

S. T. Karnick said...

Point well taken, gentlemen, but nannies do also try to keep kids from fighting with one another, teach them morality, etc. In any case, let's not get hung up on the word; the law in question is silly and intrusive. James, your second post is to me the pertinent one and agrees with the point I'm making: the Chicago law is part of a pattern, in that city and elsewhere, of taking choices away from people and setting the government in place as moral decider. That is wrong, and that is why this law is important to know about.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

...taking choices away from people and setting the government in place as moral decider.

Bingo ... well maybe just bing.

(My apologies for picking nits here)

Some choices need to be taken away from people. For example murder and rape when have a direct impact on the liberty of others. Another example is arson which deals with private property.

However, banning (fill in the blank) because its icky is where we get into trouble.

Kathy Hutchins said...

banning (fill in the blank) because its icky is where we get into trouble.

Most if not all states and localities have laws against animal cruelty. You're not allowed to torture kittens or put puppies in a blender. These laws seem at root, however, to be aimed at what their violation does to people, rather than what it does to the animals. The demos has decided that a civilized society does not tolerate the presence of people who think it's fun to torture defenseless mammals, because such people are also a threat to humans.

Agriculture has, rightly in my view, been exempt from such considerations, but the animal rights activists would like to change that. I don't think it will work as a criminal justice matter. While we have laws against torturing kittens, we don't have, so far as I know, laws against serving kittens in restaurants. We don't need them, because the idea of eating a kitten is just so repugnant to the vast majority of Americans that it would like having a law against serving dog turds in a restaurant.

I can see the sense, if the majority of the community really found the practice repugnant, of banning the production of foie gras within the community's borders. Towns use zoning laws in that way all the time. But banning the product itself, as a protest against its production, would be the equivalent of arresting people walking down the street because they were wearing Chinese prison labor shoes.

James Elliott said...

I choose to interpret Kathy's comment as a call for the right to torture kittens.

Because it's funnier that way.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Good grief, James, when are you libs ever going to learn to read? It was a call to eat kittens, not to torture them.

Sheesh.