Several months ago two women strolled into Comtesse Thérèse Bistro in Aquebogue and sat down to dine. But, outraged that this local bistro would sell foie gras, fatted bird liver, they left the eatery disgusted. And it didn’t stop there.
“I smelled an agenda the moment they came in,” says sommelier Diane Delaney. She recalls that they didn’t pay attention to the daily specials or the wine list. When they saw the foie gras, they stormed out and made a scene.
“There was definitely drama—they threw the menu at me,” says Delaney.
Foie gras, a well-known delicacy in French cuisine, is distinctive for its flavor, which is collectively described as being rich, buttery and tender, unlike that of an ordinary duck liver. However, it is the manner in which this delicacy is attained that has animal advocates up in arms.
It requires the liver of a duck that has been specifically fattened through gavage (force feeding), which, subsequently, leads to the duck’s liver growing substantially larger than it naturally would, often weighing up to a pound.
The brief storm of discontent abated, or so thought Delaney and Chef Arie Pavlou, when suddenly they received an email from the two women, which made it clear that they left because the establishment dared to sell foie gras. Delaney sent an email back, noting that she was sorry the women felt this way, but that selling the French delicacy is not illegal.
The drama continued, and Comtesse Thérèse Bistro then received another email which appeared to be from animal advocacy organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) calling for the boycott of the neighborhood bistro. The organization has a knack for calling boycotts against businesses that violate their code of conduct towards animals—sometimes rightfully so—though the means of broadcasting their agenda is often itself unethical.
But the means of airing this particular grievance turned out to be via forgery. The email was a fake—it was not sent by PETA, but was a fabricated version of a note that PETA had initially directed toward ShopRite for selling foie gras.
However, it is not an aberration from the group’s modus operandi.
The email sent to ShopRite offered an ultimatum: either the market is to discontinue the selling of foie gras or the organization will call for a boycott of the supermarket.
What divides an ethical cause from an ethical tirade? PETA is well known for doing outlandish, eyebrow-raising stunts to attain public attention that often involves stretching the truth.
I agree that the mistreatment of animals is wrong, but to influence me to think that eating meat is morally wrong is in itself morally wrong. PETA as an organization has a right to educate people on the treatment of animals; however, allow me to make my own personal decision on what I believe. Presenting me with skewed stories and manipulated stats and facts is a forgery and therefore unethical.
A few years ago PETA ran a slogan “Got Autism?” Not only did they run this campaign, they posted it on a billboard in Newark, N.J. Rome University conducted some research into the cases of autism. PETA immediately jumped the gun on the results, which found that there was improvement in those with autism when dairy products weren’t consumed, as the substance casein (a component of milk) was eliminated from the diet. Consequently, PETA came to the claim that cows’ milk causes autism, though the study from the university never published such a statement.
But why Newark? In 2007, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study of autism related births in 14 states, and New Jersey had the highest. PETA simply jumped to conclusions with utter disregard to the sensitivities related to the issue of autism in an area where autism is especially prevalent.
PETA also has a long-standing heated relationship with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Well, PETA apparently holds a grudge beyond the grave. PETA purchased a plot of land near Col. Harland Sanders’ burial site at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville. The organization placed a gravestone of a living member, where the epitaph on the stone, disguised as an acrostic poem, spelt out “KFC Tortures Birds.” The cemetery director became aware of this post-mortem grudge and removed the stone from the cemetery. PETA will essentially play dead in order to evoke their agenda.
But, it turns out that Comtesse Thérèse Bistro gets the last laugh.
“I’d like to say thank you to the two ladies,” says Delaney, because the restaurant’s foie gras sales have increased since the media attention from the incident.
People use animals as food. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it might be foie gras.