On Friday night, June 20, a group of about a dozen protesters headed to the restaurant Ten-01, at 1001 NW Couch. The owner of this restaurant (who ironically also owns the veg restaurant Nutshell) had previously told protesters in person that he would take foie gras off the menu and never serve it again - at which point an earlier protest was cancelled, and protesters with signs in hand walked away from the establishment. However, he has once again put it on the menu.
We had a lively and educational protest, passing out fliers, singing, drumming, and chanting. Many passers-by asked us about foie gras and expressed their disgust at the process of producing foie gras.
To produce foie gras (fatty liver) ducks and geese are force-fed two to three times per day using metal pipes shoved down their throats. Their throats and esophagus' are scratched and wounded with the insertion and removal of the pipes, sometimes causing mortal infections. If the throat is punctured they may bleed to death. The liver swells to up to 10 times its normal size, impairing its function. Swollen abdomens make it difficult for the birds to walk (although there is no place to walk - these water-loving birds are caged for their whole miserable lives). Some animals are too sick to even stand. The production of foie gras is banned in many places, including the UK, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Israel, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Argentina, on grounds of animal cruelty. For more information and video, see http://www.goveg.com/feat/foie/
Managers and employees at Ten-01 taunted us, saying they would never take foie gras off the menu, and that we were only letting potential customers know that foie gras was served there, thus helping their business. However, we saw a number of parties turn away and go elsewhere, once they were shown that foie gras is served at Ten-01. The valet told us that business was slower than usual.
At one point an Elmer Fudd looking dude who identified himself as "block security" and was wearing an "official t-shirt" told us that we had to move on. We laughed and let him know he could call the police if he believed something illegal was going on. He glared at us from half a block away for the rest of the protest. The restaurant managers also told us that we could not protest there. Fortunately, what remains of the First Amendment dictates that it is legal to peacefully protest. Message to Ten-01: you do not in fact own the public sidewalk.
Foie gras is a very small part of Ten-01's menu. It would not hurt them financially to remove it. This is the case with every restaurant that serves foie gras in Portland. It's a specialty item, one that indicates to people with little imagination that they are enjoying the "finer things" in life. Perhaps the power of hurting a captive animal so terribly for this luxury is part of the thrill. One can believe that one is so powerful that others can be tortured at one's command.
When we see the pictures of ducks so sick from force feeding that they're choking on their own vomit, conscience requires that we take to the streets and exercise our voices. Those animals do speak - their struggle against the metal pipe going down their throats is clear protest - but their perpetrators do not listen. It may be easy to ignore the protest of a caged creature who weighs just a few pounds, however, we (and hopefully you too!) will be back with our resolute and unavoidable voices for these animals wherever foie gras is served in Portland.