Monday, April 23, 2012


It’s a cold winter morning and I’m six, watching my breath fade into a background of freshly fallen snow blanketing the ground. The winter has an eerie stillness, the silence only broken by the sound of my breathing and footsteps crunching in the new snow.

*THUD* Came the sound from my grandfather’s hatchet that woke me from my trance like state, the now bright red flecks of snow seemed omnipresent. The sound of the old rooster kicking and half running while flapping its wings became a new distraction as my mind raced to process what was happening.

This was my first experience in understanding where meat comes from. I’ll admit I wasn’t enthusiastic about the coq au vin that night and all I could think about were the times I would chase Henry, (that was the rooster’s name) or vice versa through the dusty driveway leading to my grandparents’ house.

When I cried at the dinner table that evening I remember my grandmother running her fingers through my hair and saying… “That was Henry’s job dear; if you don’t eat... it means he did his job for nothing…and I think that would make Henry very sad.” Of course it wasn't Henry's "only" job, but it was enough to make me start eating again. 

With the upcoming ban on foie gras in California, I have been talked at, by several people opposed to foie gras. They cited many video’s shot by so called “animal rights” groups, showing animals being tortured, abused and otherwise mistreated. Yet when I show them video’s, news articles, government reports and various other forms of documentation to support the opposite... this is what happens.

The champions of animal rights revert back to the spouting off of unsupported nonsense, and outright lies. Did they not see what I showed them? Did they even look? What is the underlying issue as to why no amount of evidence is good enough to satisfy their outrage?

I have a theory so follow with me if you will. I truly believe the vast majority of people who wave the banner of animal rights don’t do so because they want to improve the living conditions of animals raised for consumption.

I believe it’s because they don’t want animals to die in the name of human consumption period. Regardless of how happy and wonderful a life the animals may have led up to the time of slaughter.

Let’s look at a few lightning rods in the world of animal rights, Foie gras, milk fed veal, spring lamb and chicken. Why are people not concerned so much with beef? Yes its true people are concerned with feedlot beef, but I don’t see many people looking to outright ban beef…I kept asking myself why?

Consider the animals themselves, young, cute and fluffy for the most part. It’s the reason Rabbit isn’t as popular here in the U.S. as it is in the rest of the meat eating world. Guess who else sees this?

Wrong-headed politicians who allow themselves to be forced into picking a side...they see saving cute little animals as a vote grabber. After all who wants to see little bunnies or ducklings killed for any reason...It's a win win! Besides, they can go ahead and have foie when they go to Vail for that really important...uh.... meeting...

I think most people in my age group (I just turned 39…four years ago) have a “Henry” story or know of someone who has. So when they go to the grocery store, they understand where meat actually comes from.

Younger people perhaps have a harder time grasping meat not magically appearing inside a Styrofoam and plastic package. As a result, the first video they see from (insert animal rights group here) of (insert cute animal here) being abused, tortured …VOILA, instant animal rights activist and/or vegan.

For all I know, they may even see video of an animal being raised or slaughtered in a responsible manner and reach the same conclusion because they are so revolted. Either way, they're somewhat disconnected.

I am positive I will hear how this is all a bunch of hooey and I couldn’t be more wrong (at best). Let me put it to you naysayers another way. If you saw video of happy ducks living like ducks do in green grassy wide open fields, frolicking and eating bugs. Then you see them getting only the finest spring water and eating only the best food.

You see them getting daily checkups from world renowned veterinarians to make sure their every need was met, and nutritionists to see that their diet was 100% proper. Now after twelve to fourteen weeks of all this magnificent attention and care were led to a room, and with no pain were magically killed. Would that be OK? If you’re being honest with yourselves, I suspect it wouldn't.

I think anybody who eats meat should at some time either bear witness to, or take part in an animal being slaughtered. It will give insight into what you eat and why. It will also give you a new respect for what you cook and how you cook it. It will teach you to not be wasteful as well as to understand total utilization for every portion of the animal. Beef for example is not just filet mignon and prime rib, it is also tripe and beef cheeks.

Chef Thomas Keller described to Author Michael Ruhlman how once when he was a young chef, thought it would be a good idea to have rabbit on the menu. When 11 live rabbits were delivered before dinner service and he had to kill and butcher them himself, he learned not only to respect the animal and the bounty it offered, but also not to ever disrespect that animal by overcooking it, or just tossing it because of an error in judgment or being careless.

So I believe the battle on foie gras isn’t based on better living conditions, or animals being mistreated, abused or injured. It is much more basic than that and we have only the politically correct society we live in to blame. We have desensitized people to the end purpose of raising such animals. The final destination for the animals we raise in such a manner is ultimately...our dinner table.
It is because we rarely see a slaughterhouse or a true butcher shop anymore. It is because most grocery stores have the butchering area almost invisible to outside eyes. What comes out of it are nice, clean, sterile, perfectly portioned plastic packs of something few people even stop to consider the origin of.

Instead it is reduced to knowing what cut of a particular type of meat you want, and does it say natural, grass fed or free range. It is because we use words like meat fabrication, or animal harvesting instead of what they actually are which is butchering and slaughtering.

I am for animals being treated well and with dignity while they are in our care. I don’t know of a single chef, cook or farmer who wants the opposite.

I’m all for oversight by people who want the best care for animals before they are ultimately...slaughtered. Not oversight by people who want the end result to be packs of wild chickens shopping on fifth avenue or begging for money so they can get a fun pass.  

The problem is no matter how high you set that bar for animal welfare, it will never be enough for some people…I know it, and so do they. I sincerely hope anybody who abuses, mistreats, or disrespects animals of any kind and in any way, are met in hell with a two by four to the head and are impaled by a six foot roll of flaming shag rug for eternity.

Should we strive to do a better job in the animal husbandry department...most definitely. But the solution isn't to just stop all farming and release the animals into the wild to eat granola, sing cumbayah and live fairly and harmoniously in nature. Just ask any baby wildebeest that has met with a pack of hyenas how fair and harmonious life is.

I find something I recently noticed to be very chilling, and yet telling of human behaviour. Most people will be visibly shaken or audibly gasp if an animal in a movie is shot or killed. The sad thing is, people barely make a sound when it is a human  in the same movie who gets shot or killed. I guess the human just doesn't meet the cuteness criteria some are looking for.
It is entirely possible and probable that the objection by some is strictly based on moral precepts. They choose not to eat meat because they'd prefer not to kill animals for the sake of themselves or their diet, and I most definitely respect that.

But to force that morality on the masses because is doesn't suit your views or lifestyle is just least in this country. Otherwise, lets all pick just one religion...that should be easy right?  Do what most people do and agree to disagree, then go hunt down a tofurkey.

A vast majority of people eat animals and animal products. This has been going on since man learned how to sharpen sticks. They didn't sharpen sticks to keep the woolly mammoth out of the soy bean patch, it's because our ancestors wanted meat. Thank your lucky stars for that.

Without meat, our brains wouldn't have developed to where they are today. In fact we'd probably still be acting out Clan of the Cave Bear, instead of reading the awful book and turning it into a movie...come to think of it...damn you meat!

Let the individual decide for themselves what is right, and let them be held accountable for their actions in whatever afterlife you believe in. Think about this before taking matters into your collective self-righteous hands.

I believe the law regarding the banning of  foie gras in California is wrong because it is not an argument based on the welfare and treatment of animals. That is the thin veil it is draped in, because no reasonable person wants to see animals abused.

There is enough documentation to show that producers such as Hudson Valley Foie Gras couldn’t be treating their animals any better, if they were living in people’s homes, being fed Science Diet Duck Chow, and getting the good recliner in front of the big screen TV. You would think that would make these people happy as it achieved their goal of better animal husbandry right? Wrong... 

Lets call this what it really is...this is a law for people against the killing of any cute fuzzy animals. Especially if that cute fuzzy animal might be used in a made for tv family movie or insurance commercial. Regardless of how well or responsibly they are raised…It'll just never be good enough. Sorry didn't quite make the cut...don't call us, we'll call you!


  1. I am with you all the way on this one. My first experience as a young kid with dead animals was coming home from school only to find 10 dead rabbits in our hallway at the bottom of the stairs to our apartment. My father's friends had been hunting. I soon also got to taste one of the best meals I had ever had. I still make rabbit 4-5 times a year and it is delicious. It is amazing the looks I get when I tell people I am making rabbit. All they can think about are those cute Easter bunnies.

    1. Rabbit was the first animal I actually killed myself with a .22 cal. I don't understand people aversion to it. It's delicious. Thanks for reading!

  2. Applause!! Going to share this!!

  3. I know that many more people are reading this than are commenting. Great writing as always, and I think you know I share a similar perspective.

    1. Thanks Roddy...Glad you enjoyed the read!