Foie Gras, with Hollande-aise Sauce

Seth Victor

Recently French President François Hollande pledged to fight California’s ban on foie gras. How he plans to do this, I am not sure, and the president himself has admitted that he cannot fight the law directly. Fearing that California’s legislation will encourage other states and, perhaps closer to home for the new leader, other EU countries to implement similar laws, he vows to use free trade treaties to continue to export this traditional French product while “bombard[ing] US political leaders with gifts of foie gras ‘for their own great enjoyment.'” How kind of him.

As The Independent reports, “it is useful for Mr. Hollande politically to cast himself as a defender of rural and ancient traditions. In truth, 80 per cent of French foie gras is produced in factory farms, rather than small family run businesses like the one he visited on Saturday.” In that respect, this is akin to an Iowan politician singing the virtues of a mom and pop farm when it is the CAFOs that are bringing in the political support; it paints the proper down-to-earth bucolic image that is much more attractive than a corporate defender. Perhaps this is all just political posturing.

Mr. Hollande’s support make sense when we consider that he won the election on an anti-austerity campaign. Nothing says spending like over-priced livers. The president claims that to ban the importation of  what is legally in France a “protected cultural and gastronomical heritage” is an affront to free trade. Hypothetically, if America still relied on slave labor, I wonder if we could cite the same principle to object to any European country that declined to import our cotton.

The California ban has been in effect for over a month, and how well this polarizing law will be enforced is questionable, as Elizabeth Rattner previously posted. Still, if Mr. Hollande is that concerned with the gall of the Californians, perhaps he can make some appeal under the Supremacy Clause similar to Crosby v. NFTC, though I don’t think there are the same kind of conflicting laws in this matter. Opponents of the law have cited Commerce Clause issues that might carry water. Then again, while I generally applaud political focus on animal issues, maybe Mr. Hollande will realize that he has more pressing concerns than a state that might influence a small percentage of French exports.

3 Responses

  1. Excellent piece, which usefullly reminds us of the dire truth that for animals, left and right are mere catchphrases–2 faces of the same ghastly machinery of oppression.

    Interesting you should mention slavery. France did, in fact, exact reparations from a destitute Haiti until 1948. For most of the 19th c, these amounted to more than half the Haitian national budget. Why reparations? ‘Cause the Haitians had had the effrontery to free themsleves from their French slaveowners and declare their independence, thereby depriving the Great Republic of the most fantastically profitable colony in its blood-soaked commercial empire. ‘Guerriers magnanimes’ indeed!

    So Mr Hollande, the paladin of tradition, seeks to champion ‘cultural and gastronomic heritage’, eh? Picture him–his countenance grave, his voice quivering with patriotic indignation–as he intones that thrilling phrase! From the vantage point of its numberless victims, both human and non-, that canting word ‘heritage’ does, it seems to me, have a ranker stench than almost all the other pestilential effluvia commonly expectorated by politicians.

  2. I think that “cultural and gastronomic heritage” has much more to do with modern economics than anything else. Poor stuffed ducks and geese.

    And what is it with France these days? They’re welcoming bull fights and have even “banned” vegetarian meals in school cafeterias!

    Even though I’m of French descent, I’m not feeling too much of the “Vive La France!” these days.

  3. Yeesh, foie gras is such a horrible process. I can’t believe someone would defend it in that way.

    Then again, French politics, left or right, look from the outside to have been dominated by a marked knee-jerk, populist nationalism lately.

    It’s positively Clarksonian.

    Martin Schiele | Anicura

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