Sunday, August 27, 2006

High Living on Fatty Liver

As of last week it has been illegal to sell, and therefore serve foie gras in Chicago, as a result of a a by-law passed by the City Council. Predictably enough it has been passed because of the alleged cruelty of force-feeding the geese and ducks involved in the production of the greasy liver pâté. All very well but I wonder if Chicago City Council passed a motion condemning the Israeli bombing of Lebanese civilians? I think it is highly unlikely, and the sad truth is that fowl in the south of France can muster more compassion in the West than Arabs in southern Lebanon.

Another news story on the cruelty-to-animals front is a campaign to make it illegal to slaughter horses in the US for consumption abroad. Willie Nelson and Bo Derek (remember her?) are among the, er, celebrities, that have lent their support to the campaign. I assume that many of these good people are meat eaters; as Dennis Leary used to say, you only spare the cute animals. Eating horse-flesh is one of those horrendous things that Johny Foreigner gets up to and I can understand the indignation of patriotic animal lovers seeing American horses being packed off to end up on a European dinner plate. I had foal, roasted and served in a red-wine sauce in Slovenia a few weeks ago, and I have to say I was disappointed - tough and flavourless the meat was but I would give it a go again, whatever the provenance of the equine beast.

I was a vegetarian for eight years and for much of that time I defended my rationale behind my choice not to eat meat. Now five years on from going back to meat I can no longer do that. I turned vegetarian when I was 18 and before that time I had probably never eaten in a half-decent restaurant. Nor had I left Ireland. When I started working in the catering trade, and living in France, I soon realised what a dull, philistine choice vegetarianism is. While I know that not all vegetarians are self-righteous and puritanical about not eating meat, many are. There is something infinitely smug about vegetarianism and it also bespeaks a depressing lack of curiosity about the world, about culture and about food itself. It is no coincidence that many vegetarians do not care very much for vegetables or pulses. And other than the obvious (and very different) case of Hindu vegetarianism, abstention from meat is something that exists almost exclusively in English-speaking and Nordic countries. There is a clear link with religious self-righteousness there. The thing that annoys me the most about those that abstain from meat is the way that they moan about not being catered for in countries where vegetarians are non-existent (i.e. most of mainland Europe, Latin America and Africa, and a good stretch of Asia); why in God's name should a French brasserie owner or the proprietor of a Spanish tapas bar go out of their way to provide an elaborate meat-free dish for some Anglophone with a bizarre dietary penchant, and who in most cases, makes no effort to order in the local language in the first place?

Another feature of vegetarianism, and associated strains of anthropomorphism is the consumerist easy political choice it offers; one can have a conscience without having to think about any of the nasty things going on in the world, without even having to vote. I wonder if it sits easy on the conscience of a mobile-phone-owning vegetarian the knowledge that the current war in south-east Congo is being fuelled by the tungsten trade, which is vital to the mobile telecommunications industry? It may or may not, and many people would not be too bothered. And perhaps they shouldn't be. Other than feeling mild guilt, there is not an awful lot that any of us can do about it. I have yet to meet anybody that has given up using a mobile for this reason. For my part it does not really bother me that a duck or a goose suffers during the production of foie gras. I would like to say it does, but I really do not care, even if I can hardly call myself a big fan of the stuff. I just find it depressing that people in the US or elsewhere would interest themselves in foie gras only because of its association with avian cruelty. One thing that always annoyed me when I was vegetarian was somebody pointing out for the umpteenth time that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian too, as if there were any correlation between compassion for animals and being a psychopath. I don't do that when discussing vegetarianism but vegetarians do share a certain belief that they are absolutely right married with a lack of adventure of anything beyond what they know.


麒麟Kylin said...

wow,your article is too long.
So it is a little hard for me to understand~~!ˇ—ˇ
Welcome to my blog~!