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Mind Over Miller: Foie gross!


I don't understand the controversy over taking a stand on foie gras production.

I don't understand the controversy over taking a stand on foie gras production. This gourmet food is derived from the diseased livers of force-fed geese and ducks—most people have strong feelings about it one way or another. Yet, according to the September 1st issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, at its annual session, the AVMA House of Delegates declined to take a position to support or oppose foie gras production.

Click to enlarge

I take a position. It is on my knees, bent over, retching. I used to think foie gras was French, but no, it is phonetic English. I take a spoonful of foie gras. I swallow. Then I say, "Phaw! Graaaagh!"

How can we, as members of a healing profession, support the production of bird liver with artificially induced fatty infiltration? It is no wonder that it is served in such small portions. Try to eat a large portion, and you will keel over with a coronary artery obstruction before it is half gone. But, you say, the French love foie gras, and they have much lower prevalence of heart disease than we do. Yes, but they simultaneously antidote the foie gras with red wine.

But, you say, both liver and wine contain products that predispose liver disease (saturated animal fats and alcohol). That's true, and I know several researchers who are avidly working on solving this riddle. I suspect that it's all a matter of timing. You see, the French consume their saturated fats and alcohol simultaneously. People in the United States are more likely to consume saturated fats all day and consume alcohol after work until bedtime.

Another thing, foie gras is diseased liver. Aren't we supposed to prevent disease? With our own children, we mean well, even if we eventually turn them into pudgy caricatures of what normal, lean, active kids are supposed to look like. With these birds, the fattening is intentional; we want pale, friable, dysfunctional livers.

Then there is the humane aspect. Is it humane to physically restrain a bird and repeatedly force food down its esophagus?

Some day, thanks to stem cell research, we'll be able to grow all the livers we want in a petri dish. Then the normal ones can be used for liver transplants to save patients with hopelessly diseased livers (due mostly to excessive consumption of foie gras and wine). And the abnormal livers can be harvested to make foie gras.

Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker, and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member from Thousand Oaks, Calif. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his Web site at www.robertmmiller.com.

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