Peta, mixed up in pat?, cooks celebrity butcher's goose

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2012, 12:00am


Let me share a couple of delicious ironies: that a butcher can be a celebrity and the word 'pat?' is an anagram of Peta, the animal rights people.

The Brad Pitt of the meat counter, the Cary Grant of the cold cuts is Jack O'Shea, who was turfed out of the London department store Selfridges after being caught selling foie gras at his concession. The store had banned the sale of the product under pressure from Pate - sorry, Peta - and lousy ex-Bond actor Roger Moore.

What's the controversy? O'Shea was caught bang to rights breaking company policy and admitted it, but he added that 'hippies with no understanding of food production' were behind the campaign, according to the Daily Telegraph.

There is no argument that foie gras comes from a farming practice called gavage that involves feeding ducks or geese a high carbohydrate diet to obtain a large liver.

Is it cruel? Ducks or geese are fed two to three times a day for 12 to 18 days at the end of their lives by the introduction of a specially designed tube that sends an extra 200 to 400 grams of maize down their throats. Producers argue that the overeating mimics the birds' own pre-migration fattening practices and that ducks and geese are highly adapted to storing fat in their livers.

Opponents use the term 'force feeding', but is this accurate, or is it degrading only to the human beings who have been subjected to that practice? Force feeding has been used on people - political dissidents and hunger strikers.

Force implies an action that is against the will; the will implies a mind at work, a spirit with desires and the ability to communicate them. And we don't use the term 'bird brain' out of admiration for the intellectual insights of our feathered friends.

As O'Shea said: 'Stuffing a goose with grain is like stuffing me with Guinness; it has been totally blown out of proportion. I will probably lose my business over it, but I don't give a damn. My conscience is clear.'

No doubt, though, many of us who do enjoy the delicacy still hesitate in the backs of our minds about the production process. We can rationalise, but it doesn't seem right. But until all our meat is 'reared' in labs, there is no getting around the fact that we are using animals for our own wants and needs.

Celebrity butcher - Really? No doubt one butcher can find nicer meat to chop up in a more skilful way than another. But society used to have heroes with considerable artistic or sporting achievements to their names, or who carried out great feats of derring-do. Is a butcher really in the same rank as Neil Armstrong, or Louis Armstrong?