Download audio (MP3)
Hearts vs. Taste Buds
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau sees a triumph of compassion in the bans on foie gras and shark fin soup.
By Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
On the basis of compassion and good sense, the California State Legislature made it illegal to sell foie gras as of July 2012. The production of foie gras necessarily involves the force-feeding of ducks and geese, resulting in a diseased and painfully enlarged liver, for which the animals are eventually killed.
All for a cracker spread.
In 2011, the California State Legislature made it illegal to sell shark fins. The ban became effective as of July 1, 2013. To keep restaurants in supply, sharks -- as many as 70 million a year -- are caught, have their fins sliced off and are thrown back into the ocean to die a slow death, gravely affecting not only those individuals but the larger ecosystem and the population of dozens of shark species.
All for a soup ingredient.
Since the foie gras ban went into effect, most restaurants have taken it off their menus, but some have been either overtly selling it or covertly offering it to knowing customers as a "secret" menu item. Some restaurant owners are delighting in the creative ways they're exploiting a loophole in the foie gras ban that makes it illegal only to sell it, so they're giving it away for free to patrons.
We have yet to see if opponents of the shark-fin ban will do the same, but, as in the final legal days of foie gras, people were urged to order shark fins before they went underground.
Personally I see no difference between killing a duck for his liver, a shark for his fins, a chicken for her wings, an elephant for her tusks, or a rhino for his horn. Cultural prerogative and personal choice -- the common refrain of those who defend such acts -- are feeble excuses for what amounts to desire, profit and pleasure.
I take heart in each anti-cruelty law we pass and find hope in each person who advocates for those who have no voice. They remind me that -- aside from a few antagonists -- our hearts are larger than our taste buds.
With a Perspective, this is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an Oakland-based author and teacher on compassionate living.