By Philip Poston
By Jonathan Shikes
By Noah Reynolds
By Gretchen Kurtz
By Kate Gibbson
By Cafe Society
By Samantha Alviani
By Patricia Calhoun
They came in the dead of night, ready for war, in a rented minivan. They wore rubber gloves, hats, surgical masks and special-issue combat Birkenstocks, forsaking their customary Phish concert T-shirts and Guatemalan peasant dresses for basic black -- the formalwear of today's fashionable domestic terrorist. They marched in grim silence across muddy fields, bravely braving the myriad hazards of a night mission deep in the depths of Sonoma County, California. They all knew the risks. They realized that one wrong turn could lead them straight into the middle of a wine tasting or a midnight antique fair, but these were dedicated, motivated, highly trained individuals doing what they did best. They were the duck liberators, and they had a job to do.
Eventually they reached their target: the Sonoma Foie Gras complex. From inside the perimeter of the not-very-high chain-link fence that encircled the compound, they could hear the anguished cries of thousands upon thousands of their web-footed friends, unjustly incarcerated for the crime of being delicious.
The duck liberators had been planning this mission for months. They'd been on such operations before, transporting freed captives along what they called an "underground railroad for ducks." But tonight was different. Tonight they were walking right into the enemy camp. They'd explored every option, planned for every contingency, reviewed in excruciating detail every possible complication -- but no one could have anticipated the fiendish defense that one Guillermo Gonzalez, owner of Sonoma Foie Gras, had employed to stop them: He'd locked the door leading into his duck shed.
With this, the plan was in a shambles, the mission teetering on the brink of failure. All that work, the hours spent plotting and scheming over wheat-grass shakes and tofu burgers, the money spent on the rental van -- wasted. Even the pair of bolt-cutters that one conspirator had thought to bring along were useless. The team was about to give up, ready to abort its mission and fall back to the 24-hour Denny's out by the highway, when one member spotted a jury-rigged air-conditioning duct running into the building. This was their chance. The four freedom fighters went in commando-style, video cameras rolling, and documented what they claimed to be the criminal abuse of those noble animals being fattened up for the slaughter.
And when their heroic work was done, what did they leave with? Four Peking-Muscovy ducks rescued from certain doom at the hands of the evil animal oppressors.
Never mind that Sonoma Foie Gras keeps thousands of ducks on the premises, or that Gonzalez didn't even notice these four were missing until the duck liberators released a statement (and videotapes) to the press. Never mind the fact that these knuckleheaded dimwits broke about a half-dozen laws while they were out playing vegan Rambo on a school night. Or that they were really just garden-variety burglars (and not terribly talented ones, at that) on par with some Petaluma crackhead taking a tire iron to the plate glass of his neighborhood Gas-n-Sip and "liberating" himself some smokes and lottery tickets. Or that their militant activism has gotten them and similar animal-rights organizations branded as domestic terrorists by the feds.
And never mind that one of the four ducks died in their care.
No, what really matters is that they liberated four ducks. (Okay, three ducks.) Way to stick it to The Man. I mean, why bother trying to make a reasoned political statement that could spark some forthright debate around the dinner table when you can go traipsing around like low-rent thugs in your greasepaint and Gap cammies instead?
In spectacularly misguided fashion, this group was trying to make a point about the cruelty inherent in the production of foie gras, which is made from the engorged, fatty liver of ducks and geese. The process involves the controlled force-feeding of cornmeal mush to the critters by pneumatic feeding tubes two or three times a day. That means cramming a tube down a duck's throat and administering eight to twelve ounces of feed in about four seconds, and yeah, that sounds like a pretty shitty thing to do to an animal, but at the end, you know what you get? You get foie gras -- and foie gras is yummy. Foie gras is the pinnacle of culinary indulgence, the alpha and omega of epicurean sensuality, a dish that's been around in one form or another for hundreds of years and, when handled properly, is still one of the greatest delicacies mankind has ever known.
And the only way to get foie gras is to do bad things to ducks and geese.
But certain peculiarities in the physiology of ducks and geese make me think that Godput the critters on the planet specifically to act as little foie gras factories. First, they have no gag reflex, so they don't choke on the feeding tube. Second, their necks are all esophagus and used as storage organs during digestion. Third, because they're migratory animals, their bodies are built for storing excess calories as fat in their livers, and since fat in the liver is what makes foie gras so tasty, that means they're just asking for it.