The Foie Gras Saga Continues

As the July 1st ban looms nearer, the foie gras battle continues here in California. In a recent SF Chronicle article, Chairman of the CA Democratic Party, and author of the ban legislation, John Burton was quoted as saying ”I’d like to sit all 100 of them down and have duck and goose fat – better yet, dry oatmeal- shoved down their throats over and over and over again” in response to the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards. This statement has spun a new discourse about the nature of violent rhetoric and fear mongering as a political tactic.

Catch up on the debates with Mark Pastore’s response to John Burton’s comments below and these other articles:

· Chefs Rally Against Foie Gras Ban [NBC Video]

·Foie gras chefs hungry for fight against ban [San Francisco Chronicle]

· Mark Pastore: “The R Spot” [Inside Scoop]

· All foie gras coverage [Inside Scoop]

SF Gate the San Francisco Chronicle announces Samovar's Salon Series

Bullying at top incites an ugly society all around

Mark Pastore

Thursday, May 10, 2012

John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party, responded to a proposal from 100 of California’s most prominent chefs to reconsider a July 1 ban on foie gras by threatening to shove dry oatmeal “down their throats over, and over, and over again.”

I am one of the chefs and restaurateurs whom Burton threatened last month. We respect his right to disagree with us over whether or not California should become the only place in the world to ban the sale of fattened duck liver, or foie gras. We condemn, however, Burton’s ongoing use of violent rhetoric. Here’s why:

Many of us first became involved with this issue in 2003, when animal-rights activists vandalized the home and business of chef Laurent Manrique, his wife and 2-year-old child, and then issued a threat against him. The FBI categorizes these as acts of domestic terrorism. Such acts should be met with unequivocal opposition, not by imitation.

About a year later, then-state Sen. Burton put forward a law to ban the sale of all products from foie gras ducks, including not only foie gras itself but also meat, bones for pet food and feathers for down jackets. The law passed, with limited public review, in part because the state’s only foie gras farmer was subjected to physical threats, vandalism and costly litigation from animal rights advocates.

Since then, emboldened extremists continue to use threats and violent acts as a means of achieving political ends.

Researchers at California universities have been vandalized, stalked and threatened by animal rights activists. Arsonists recently caused more than $2 million in damage at Harris Ranch. Many chefs who have stood up respectfully to defend our customers’ right to choose what they eat have been subject to vandalism and repeated threats of physical violence.

Use of threatening language to inspire fear violates California’s “criminal threats” law. When the threats are issued from a leadership position, such as chairman of the California Democratic Party, it sends a signal far and wide that inciting violence and causing fear are acceptable tactics in public discourse.

Sadly, not everyone understands the line between rhetoric and action. Gay bashing, abortion clinic bombings, and the murder of doctors who perform abortions have all been preceded by use of violent rhetoric intended to dehumanize the target. It’s not possible to achieve a more humane world by using violent language to score political points. Doing so creates a legacy of hate, not humanity.

The chefs involved with this issue represent the same districts as our elected officials. We create jobs, stimulate tourism, pay taxes, and vote in every part of California. Burton owes not only the chefs but all Californians an unqualified public apology for his behavior. More important, Burton owes the public his trust in today’s rightfully elected officials to give this issue a fair public airing, free from backroom threats to use his position as leader of California’s most powerful political party to damage their political careers.

Mark Pastore is the owner of Incanto restaurant in San Francisco.

This article appeared on page A – 16 of the San Francisco Chronicle

 

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