06/13/2012 12:27 EDT | Updated 08/13/2012 05:12 EDT

First They Came for the Soda, Then for the Foie Gras


The American media and general public were recently sent into a tizzy over Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement that a 16-ounce limit would be on New York City's sugary drinks. While some, like Michelle Obama, lauded efforts to curtail America's rapidly expanding waistline, others expressed outrage at an apparent offense against our individual liberties and "right to choose."

Kristen Davis at The Libertarian Republicanaccused Bloomberg of being the "proponent of the Nanny State," lamenting the ban's imposition of restrictions on individual dietary choices. Kristen's sentiment was echoed by the media and general public reacting to a very abrupt, radical attempt to limit individual consumption to healthier portion sizes.

A full-page ad in the New York Times ran depicting Bloomberg as a Nanny and asking, "What's next? Limits on the width of a pizza slice, size of a hamburger or amount of cream cheese on your bagel?"

I'll tell you what's next: foie gras.

In a matter of weeks, on July 1, Californians will no longer be able to enjoy foie gras, or "fat liver."

Unlike New York City's soda ban, the impetus behind the foie gras ban extends beyond rising obesity rates, into the realm of animal rights. The "Delicacy of Despair," as so named by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is made from an especially fat duck or goose. The birds are force fed with a small plastic tube, or "gavage," that is placed down the throat several times a day for three weeks, causing the birds' livers to bloat up to ten times their normal size.

Like Bloomberg's ban, the foie gras ban has garnered substantial criticism. Californians from San Francisco down to San Diego are lining up at local restaurants to order their last taste of the fatty liver before rolling into July. In the face of animal rights protesters, several Wine Country chefs hosted Farewell to Foie Gras dinners throughout the spring. A handful of California chefs have even formed a coalition in opposition, calling for an alternative to the ban that supports ethical treatment of animals while also allowing for consumption of the delicacy.

The Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS) have warned that "the total ban on foie gras... goes too far," proposing instead regulations requiring adherence to a more humane treatment of ducks and geese. CHEFS insists that "if we ban foie gras, animals will be the victims of a newly-created black market," underscoring issues surrounding legislative oversight and reinforcement.

As Trevor Butterworth points out in Slate, enforcement of Bloomberg's soda ban will also be cumbersome, asking, "You're going to police this how? Shut down restaurants that don't comply?"

However, despite the onslaught of criticism and obvious complications, legislators on both coasts are moving each of the respective bans forward, riling bellies from the Red Wood Forest to the Hudson River.