For shame!

I don’t know what makes me sadder in this article – the behaviour of the animal rights terrorists or the final capitulation of the restaurant. Members of an animal rights group threw bricks through the windows at Midsummer House, attacked their conservatory with glass-etching fluid, used paint stripper on the doors and spray-painted the building with slogans in protest at the restaurant’s use of foie gras. Chef Daniel Clifford has, after consultation with police, reluctantly responded by taking foie gras off the menu. Yet another let-down for diners in Cambridge, in a week which has also seen Bruno’s Brasserie announce its closure.

I bang on at length about foie gras here. It’s delicious, it’s been around since the ancient Egyptians, and it is not necessarily a cruel product. I recommend a trip to any of the small farms in the Dordogne which practise gavage, or force-feeding, if you are worried or curious about the animal welfare issue. I visited such a farm a few years before I started Gastronomy Domine, and saw happy, fat birds who often line up to be fed at mealtimes. Prices for the terroir-raised French stuff are much higher than those for the mass-produced Chinese product, which I do have reservations about: reservations which stop me from buying cheap foie gras. I’m perfectly happy to eat it and serve it to my friends otherwise; foie gras is a tremendous delicacy.

A quick Google (I’m not doing these guys the favour of linking to their site) for the people responsible for the awful vandalism at Midsummer House reveals a horrible level of sophistry (their basic conceit is that the fatty liver is a diseased liver, and that therefore Midsummer House is selling diseased meat) and a pretty transparent credo – they’ve got several banners up saying “Ban foie gras! Go veggie!” Violent, militant vegetarians are a group that have always bemused me utterly. It’s all very well softly denying your canine teeth exist and lovingly stroking a chicken, but when you do this at the same time as buzzing a brick through a restaurant window at 7pm, you’ve got a problem.

They’re denying the little person on the reading side of the menu a choice. If enough people are buying foie gras in shops and eating it in restaurants to make it a commercially viable product in this country (which it is; Selfridges have stopped selling it because of the animal terrorist threat, but you’ll still find it in the food halls at Fortnums and Harrods, as well as at a myriad smaller delis and, of course, on a bazillion restaurant tables), then this looks a lot to me like those diners have weighed the moral case and come out on the side of a nice, juicy foie. For god’s sake – you can buy the stuff at Costco, which suggests to me that the demand is out there. It’s Midsummer House’s great tragedy that the restaurant’s charming position, off the roads, in the middle of an approximately unpoliceable common, make it a much easier target for criminals wanting to make a violent point. Commiserations to Midsummer House, and I hope that foie gras makes its way quietly back onto the menu when the fuss has died down.

If you know anything about the attack on Midsummer House, which the staff discovered on Sunday morning, you can contact police on 0845 456 4564 or call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

7 Replies to “For shame!”

  1. I agree with Ben.

    I am very tired of self-righteous turds like the ALF. What a cowardly way of making a point.

    …apologies if this posts repeatedly, the word verification seems to be acting up…

  2. Hi Ben and Craig. You’re quite right, and I could have saved myself a few hundred words above by just linking to the news stories and saying exactly what Ben does in his comment!

  3. This would be laughable if it weren’t horribly true. I’m sorry for the restauranteurs, as if running a business weren’t tough on its own, you’ve got mad vandals! Here in the states we’ve gone to banning foie gras in many places and it’s terribly sad for our palates. I guess I wouldn’t want to treat my pets that way, but as a meat eater I just can’t get together the empathy that would forbid me to eat super rich liver.

  4. In this post you misleadingly suggest that the people who are behind the Midsummer House Campaign site were also responsible for the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) action reported in the Cambridge Evening News.

    Our group has remained constantly non-violent throughout the campaign (even when a staff member broke a protester’s megaphone and aimed a kick towards him) and did NOT carry out the property damage.

    Additionally, the brick throwing was never claimed by anyone against the sale of Foie Gras including the ALF and we were NOT involved in it.

    I hope that you will be willing to correct your misleading statements in a further posting to your blog.

  5. The website and the vandalism may not be by the same people, but the website clearly views the vandalism as justified.

    Once again, a complicated and emotive subject surrounding anumal welfare has been hijacked by a violent group with their own agenda.

    The targeting of a Michelin star restaurant suggests that agenda is more anti-wealthy and anti-meat than anything else. Good restaurants don’t tend to serve battery reared £1.99 chickens. But then vandalising your local supermarket will probably make you unpopular with the masses (who you are trying to mislead into sharing your opinion) and is much likelier to get you arrested.

  6. This article is a load of bullshit.

    Whether it is delicious or has been around since the egyptians is irrelevant – anyone who thinks that foie gras production is not cruel has been blinded by their tastebuds.

    Whilst I am not condoning what they’ve done (I am not even a vegetarian) I don’t understand why you are so confused by their actions – whether you like it or not they have clearly scored a small victory – we all know that they would have to stroke a hell of a lot of chickens to achieve those kind of results.

    I did start to see your point when you told me about the plight of the ‘little person’ whose right to sit in a posh restaurant and eat the liver of a force-fed goose is on the line – you are like the foodie’s Martin Luther King!

    May I take this chance to say that I really enjoy your blog when you’re not shoving this pompous bollocks down our throats. (sorry for the pun).

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