Ten minutes before the hour of six, Game Restaurant was packed and full of lively chatter. There was a small wait for a table and additional people standing around outside, enjoying the first warm evening Louisville has had in awhile. This level of activity is not unusual for a Saturday night at new local hot spot, but today the room was peppered with camouflage as hunters flocked in to support Game due to recent scrutiny by local animal rights activists. A protest was to begin at 6 pm due to the controversial menu item, foie gras.
Leading up to this day, tensions rose online. The Facebook event invite for the protest sports a large picture of the Game logo, which had been altered to read “Lame”. Game supporters flocked to the invite on Facebook slinging ridicule or insults;
This protest is ducking stupid. I don’t give duck if your vegetarian or PETA or Adkins. There is no ducking reason a local restaurant should be protested for the food they serve. If anything this protest and all those noise is only helping game. Go duck yourselves and suck a duck.
Some conversation, while still laced with frustration, was productive and exploratory. Others were confused. Why all this fuss about the welfare of ducks?
At the restaurant itself, the chatter inside and outside was mostly pleasant but some reflected the same confusion. Many thought that the protest was against the existence of a restaurant that served wild game. As the fifteen protesters lined up across Lexington Road with signs emblazoned with phrases like “foie gras is torture” in scarlet paint, an elderly man outside, explained to his companion why;
It’s when they force feed the ducks…
The protest itself made that message very clear, but the conversations leading up to the day were littered with distraction. The tension between some in the carnivorous community and a vegan community is deeper than this one restaurant and one product alone. Conversations about local businesses, hunting, jokes about the deliciousness of meat, all distracted from the main issue. Much of it went personal. Friends of family of Game Restaurant expressed anger at the lack of respect for the hard work the owners put forth to open the restaurant. They also showed resentment at the fact that Game was singled out amongst many other businesses that also serve the product. Activists responded quickly to questions but often the ethics of meat eating in general became a focus of debate. The effectiveness of having a protest was also a common theme. Even a veteran vegetarian commented his frustration that this method (a protest) was counter productive to the cause.
Interestingly, the one thing that was not often addressed by the many questions was the core issue around foie gras. Are force-feeding animals okay? Is it ethical to eat a product that's existence depends on a long-term unnatural and unpleasant process? We all know that to eat meat, we must take a life, but until that moment, wild game, cattle, and other livestock can live a relatively natural existence if we choose to raise them that way. (There is one exception in Spain where a man is able to produce foie gras without the use of force-feeding but has not been replicated by anyone else. Learn more here.) There was a lot of discussion about the process itself and plenty of photographs, but aside from the opposing protesters, very few that came forward to clearly state their position on the action of force-feeding.
In the end, it’s up to you as the consumer to decide and perhaps that is how we express our position. Decisions about our food culture are not always easy to come to and we all need the space to think it through for ourselves. Today, we are still a meat eating society as we have been for centuries and that programming is hard to dismantle, even if we wanted to (some of us may not). I'm not sure how many orders of foie gras sold today but Game certainly hasn’t lost any business and foie gras is still on the menu.