Just how good is Pate?
It’s as close as you can come to an orgasm by simply putting something in your mouth. Good pate is a pleasure beyond description.
The sensual, tantalising delight of pate de Foie Gras (fat liver) on a slightly toasted, thin crisp bread, closely followed by a polished Armagnac, is perhaps the most pleasing experience in the food world.
I have eaten pate in countries around the globe, and as with many fine foods, the finest pate is to be found in France. But, I have had exceptional pate here in my home town of Sydney. Nigella Lawson regularly talks about comfort food and I understand what she means every time I eat pate. It’s a food that sets me at ease and makes me understand how important good food is.
But, occasionally good things come at a cost, sometimes with a deadly cost. The suffering that takes place by ducks and geese in the manufacture of this product stands as one of the cruellest devices that humankind has ever invented.
Just how one originally figures out the process of force-feeding a goose or duck to fatten up its liver, is far beyond my imagination. It’s said to go as far back as 4000 BCE. This cruel and disheartening method that takes place to create pate does not stop me eating it, or craving its flavour and texture. This is the imbalance that most others and I are prepared to live with to get pate.
Fulfilling our desires and fascinations can be the most important requirement in our lives. More important than many other processes that take place. Even the subject cruelty of a defenceless animal takes a back seat when it comes to getting what we want. The great wrongs in the world seem not to matter, or what others have to go through to provide us with our wants, these are secondary, probably last on the list of things when chasing our desires.
Who would want to be an animal in this world? Most are here as we see them, simply to provide us with pleasure. Animals don’t kill each other for pleasure, yet they are supposedly inferior to us. The making of that sublime element pate, is history to some of the worst of human ideas. The force-feeding of these birds that takes place to create pate, if viewed by the consumer would turn almost every last one of us off pate forever.
To know that the current production of pate in Australia is linked to this barbaric method, even now makes me sick. But it does not stop me from readily devouring a plate of pate in a sitting. Its allure, its sensual pleasure crushes all history in front of me. I eat it with delight, with vigour; I lust after it like sex and music.
But what does Pate really cost?
Before I go on to tell you about my fascination with pate, I have to voice what others have said about this loathsome process that takes place in some countries to create this divine substance.
Almost all of the information below has been taken from a paper titled, Scientists and Experts on Force-Feeding for Foie Gras Production and Duck and Goose Welfare, by the Humane Society of the United States. (1)
Below is an abstract from the paper.
“The force-feeding of ducks and geese for the production of pâté de foie gras causes the birds’ livers to become diseased and swollen, inducing hepatic lipidosis; pain and injury from feeding tube insertion; fear and stress during capture and handling; gait abnormality due to distended livers; pathologies in liver function; and increased mortality. An extensive body of scientific evidence confirms that the practice of force-feeding for foie gras is detrimental to animal welfare”.
I still love it, but more from Yvan Beck, Veterinarian, Brussels, Belgium.
“In addition, this degenerative process indirectly causes several other complications external to the liver for the animals, including secondary infections (exit germs). Deterioration of the musculoskeletal system resulting in fractures of bones is common, in part because immobilization of animals in cages, nutritional imbalance of portions (deficiency in proteins and in minerals), hormonal disturbance and excessive weight which all affect bone growth. Ultimately they cause fractures, as seen in breeding facilities and in slaughterhouses. There are also various respiratory problems which appear during force-feeding and are caused by the physiological reactions caused by the forced ingestion of a big quantity of neuron-vegetative reflex food. Furthermore, without a diaphragm to separate the thorax from the abdomen, the hypertrophied and voluminous liver compresses more and more the air sacs and affects respiration. At the end of forcefeeding, the animals are most often panting and incapable of any effort.”
Is that enough? Sorry, it’s not. The following is from Wendy Jensen, Veterinarian, Concord, New Hampshire, USA.
“Having seen firsthand the terrible suffering of ducks…confirmed by autopsy reports…I am forced to conclude that foie gras is produced at a terrible cost to the birds themselves. Foie gras, touted as a gourmet delicacy to entice the palate, is really only the diseased tissue of a tortured sick animal.”
And there’s more, from Christine Nicol, Professor of Animal Welfare, School of Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, UK.
“My view on the production of foie gras is clear and supported by biological evidence. This practice causes unacceptable suffering to these animals. The primary issue is the use of force….Foie gras production takes no account of the physiological state of the bird, but involves force feeding far beyond the point at which the bird would naturally stop. This practice is repeated daily for a number of weeks, causing lesions to the throat, pathological changes to the liver and painful distension of the abdomen, limiting movement.”
The final word goes to Tatty M. Hodge, Veterinarian, East Greenbush, New York, USA.
“Animals in this condition would experience constant pain…I consider the production of foie gras to be inhumane as it deliberately harms the duck…”
How can anyone condone the production and eating of a product created in such a disgusting and cruel manner?
The answer is I do. We do. Out of this process of cruelty, comes something so tantalising that the thought of its creation holds no sway over the possibility of its consumption, at least for me. Today, we can explain and reason anything away. And we do – I do in my lust for pate.
There’s only one possible method to turn me off my love of foie gras, and that’s if someone were to treat me like these geese and ducks are handled. I’m sure there are some out there that would be willing to give that a go.
Will we ever stop eating Pate?
Yes it is wrong, but we’ve always thrived on suffering for our enjoyment, and of course that suffering is always wrong. There are other methods to create pate that can yield similar results as traditional approaches. Current production methods of pate have proven this to be true. Australia does not force feed animals to produce its pate, while some countries still do.
So many animals have suffered to bring us our cosmetics, drugs and food; hopefully the initial idea of trying to make something better, something for our pleasure, will justify the outcome. But if I was an animal, I know I’d be thinking how wrong that idea is.
To sum up this fascination, if this text were to become a painting, you would see a picture of geese and ducks, a plate of foie gras, and the process of fattening up those birds. Then you’d be left with deciding what is right, before you took a bite. I can’t do that with words.
Smoking, alcohol and drugs have moved many artists and writers into modes of creation, for me one of these triggers is pate. What I do is eat it and feel how wonderful that experience is. I leave my conscious to ponder about what I am and how I got to be me in my own personal reflection. But my conscious is something I can switch off and on. No one is at my throat forcing things down it or telling me what to think, or what to do.
Could I really stop eating Pate?