Update: The editorial page of America's paper of record agrees. It's like we speak each other's unspoken language.
Some news out of airport concessionaire/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's camp:
WASHINGTON, DC (March 22, 2007)—The Wolfgang Puck Companies have implemented an historic animal welfare program that's the first of its kind. The Humane Society of the United States applauded Wolfgang Puck's nine-point program aimed at raising the bar on farm animal treatment and curbing many of the worst cruelties associated with factory farming. These new standards cover all Wolfgang Puck lines of business including fine dining group restaurants, express franchises, catering and events, and consumer products.
So far, so good, according to the press release from the Humane Society. But Puck's precepts are a bit odd in their expression:
Wolfgang Puck's nine-point program, created in conjunction with The HSUS and Farm Sanctuary, will be fully implemented for all Wolfgang Puck companies, starting with the 14 fine dining restaurants, by the end of 2007. The nine include the following:
1. Wolfgang Puck has now eliminated foie gras from the menu of all of its dining establishments. Foie gras is produced by force-feeding ducks or geese to the point where their livers swell up to ten times their normal size.
3. Wolfgang Puck will not serve pork from producers who confine breeding sows in gestation crates. These cruel devices restrict animals from even turning around or performing many of their other behaviors for nearly their entire lives.
4. Wolfgang Puck will not serve veal from producers that confine their calves in individual veal crates. This inhumane intensive confinement practice prevents calves from even turning around or walking for months on end.
7. Wolfgang Puck will send a letter to the companies' chicken and turkey meat suppliers indicating its interest in Controlled Atmosphere Killing,* a slaughter method involving dramatically less suffering than typical methods.
I wish that he'd had the sack to come up with one more precept, so we could have Wolfgang Puck's Ten Commandments2.0.** These are laudable precepts, by and large, but it's hard not to think that LA Eater might be on to something with the notion this is a way to perk up a flagging brand. Most notably, Puck's sensible production-side dictates get pushed behind the consumption-oriented, literally headline-grabbing foie gras ban.
As I've opined elsewhere, the foie ban is kind of like being involved in a Papillion breed rescue organizaton. You are mitigating suffering, but a very small spectrum of the suffering that humans inflict on animals. It is, because of its class connotations, the softest target imaginable for PETA, et al. To their credit, the NY Times got it, focusing on the larger animal welfare issues related to Puck's move, while the LA Times was blinded with foie. On the other hand, any effort to remove foie will spark caterwauling from folks like Ruhlman and Snack, generating pub for Puck's empire.***
*See also Ottawa Modified Death.
**It is fun to rewrite the originals in this style:
"Wolfgang Puck will not make unto Wolfgang Puck any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."
Wolfgang Puck will not covet Wolfgang Puck's neighbour's house, Wolfgang Puck shalt not covet Wolfgang Puck's neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is Wolfgang Puck's neighbour's.
***For the record, I like foie gras. I'm against banning it, but largely because I think the specter of gavage is a red herring drawing attention away from much larger scale animal welfare issues. Come to think of it, if I ran PR for Tyson, I'd propose covertly funding anti-foie campaigns as a way to keep PETA out of the hen house.