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Playing pate-cake with the law

As I said earlier, I have a great respect for the law. And one of the elements of that respect is that I don't like it cheapened with silly ideas. I've long argued that having unenforced or unenforceable laws simply breeds disrespect for all laws, and a bad law is worse than no law at all.

That is being demonstrated most ably right now in Chicago.

Last year, animal rights activists managed to get the city of Chicago to ban the sale of fois gras, saying that it was the product of animal cruelty. (I have never tasted it and have no interest in tasting it, so I feel like I can be a pretty decent "neutral party" on the matter.) The ordinance passed, and the city started sending out warning letters to restaurants that still served the forbidden food.

But no one is taking the matter seriously. Not the Health Department, charged with enforcing it, who have officially declared it their "lowest priority." Not the restaurants, who either cleverly skirt the law (either offering it as "complimentary" with other dishes, or renaming it "special lobster" or some other dodge), ignore it, or celebrate their defiance. (One has their warning letter framed on the wall like a trophy or complimentary review.) And certainly not the patrons, who probably feel an illicit thrill whenever they order it.

It was a dumb idea when it was first proposed, and now it's a dumb idea with the force of law behind it. But the law has no "force" behind it, because nobody cares about it. It's just another of those laws that everyone ignores.

And every ignored law is one more chink in the armor that separates us from being a nation of laws instead a nation of chaos.

Yeah, it's a silly, funny story. The Health Department is pretty much doing the right thing, putting their priorities into "protect(ing) human health and not the health of geese and ducks." The violators of the law are being clever and inventive, doing what they should -- giving the people what they want, in a safe and proper manner.

My solution would be for the Health Department to take a couple of its investigators and assign them full-time to enforcing it as rigorously as possible, while publicly declaring that it is only fulfilling its legal responsibility and hopes that those it is charging will fight the ordinance, and get it either repealed or struck down so they can get back to their real jobs. Because that's how you fight dumb laws -- you get rid of them, not ignore them.

But that approach would take time and money, time and money all parties involved would rather not spend, to undo the work of idiots with soft hearts and softer heads.

In the meantime, another law is treated like a joke by everyone involved. This time, it's a law that deserves it. Will it be so next time?


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Comments (16)

As someone of generally lib... (Below threshold)

As someone of generally libertarian leanings, in general I'd laugh along with at some silly law or other. However, whichever way you cut it, fois gras is a pretty horrendously cruel product: in case anyone doesn't know, it is made by forcing a funnel down the goose's throat and shoving in huge quantities of food it wouldn't normally eat. Rinse and repeat daily. I saw a video of the process once, and have never forgotten it.

There are many nanny-state style laws and attitudes that deserve to be attacked, but really this isn't one of them, at least for me.

An idea used to enforce par... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

An idea used to enforce parts of the ADA is to let private parties bring suit against offending businesses and pocket the awards. Basically, enforcement has been privatized using the profit motive as the driving force. The same technique would work for the fois gras ban and it would also work for immigration laws.

Jay..the phrase "pate-cake"... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

Jay..the phrase "pate-cake"...cracked me up...we may have a divide on our political views but I have always and will continue my respect for your wit and way with words...thanks for the morning chuckle...

If you've never eaten foie ... (Below threshold)

If you've never eaten foie gras, how can you consider yourself to be a neutral party? How can you have an opinion about something you've never even tried? You should at least try it before you make up your mind.

Now that you've tried it, you're a hypocrite if you want ban it.

As a Chicagoan, I'm with yo... (Below threshold)

As a Chicagoan, I'm with you, Jay Tea. If you want to find out more about who's in charge (for lack of a better expression) of the "Pate-Cake Club" google Alderman Joe Moore. The Rogers Park-based Socialist has a virtual monopoly on these sorts of silly proposals, some of which (sadly) go on to become the sorts of laws that make Chicago the new laughingstock (a la Berkeley) of the U.S.

Ever been to a slaughterhou... (Below threshold)

Ever been to a slaughterhouse?
Ever seen calves raised for veal?

Is that it? We're going to justifying banning a food product because some people think it's produced in a cruel fashion?

Damn, what am I going to do without my New York strip?

There are many nanny-sta... (Below threshold)

There are many nanny-state style laws and attitudes that deserve to be attacked, but really this isn't one of them, at least for me.

Nice. You're not for the nanny-state except when it suits you.

That's not libertarian-leaning, you know. Just means you want to do as you like, and make others do as you like too, backed by the coercive power of the state.

Placing the rights of geese above those of private individuals. I applaud your, er, nuanced understanding of libertarianism.

Is it horrendously cruel? Yep. If that upsets you, don't eat it.

Your eagerness to use state violence to replace market pressures is disturbing.

I think they should take th... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

I think they should take the anti-prostitution enforcement approach of busting the johns. That is, station plainclothes waiter-officers in restraunts and arrest everyone that tries to order it. The resulting uproar would get City Hall's attention right quick.

Jay, it tastes like liverwu... (Below threshold)

Jay, it tastes like liverwurst. Largely because it is. It's good if you like spiced, herbed, greasier than usual liverwurst.

I agree with wavemaker. I used to work in a 'packing plant'.

Per Wikipedia: "The EU committee carried out several tests designed to detect pain or distress by looking at blood hormones and all of them were inconclusive or without any measurable difference to similarly raised animals. The committee observed that ducks and geese in a pen kept away from their force feeder when he entered the room, while daily hand-feeding of ducks and geese is normally associated with a positive response by the animals towards the person feeding them. In an experiment carried out on ducks kept individually in cages, the birds displayed less avoidance behaviour to the force feeder's visit than to the visit of a neutral person coming along the cages one hour after the force feeding.
American Veterinary Medical Association

The American Veterinary Medical Association states "Limited peer-reviewed, scientific information is available dealing with the animal welfare concerns associated with foie gras production, but the observations and practical experience shared by HOD members indicate a minimum of adverse effects on the birds involved."[55]

Third-party observers

New York Times editor Lawrence Downes, who paid an unrestricted visit[56] to Hudson Valley Foie Gras, "saw no pain or panic...The birds submitted matter-of-factly to a 15-inch tube inserted down the throat for about three seconds, delivering about a cup of corn pellets. The practice...seemed neither particularly gentle nor particularly rough."[57]"

So now we have an intrusive law based on inconclusive tests when a goose is fed a cup of corn.

"An idea used to enforce pa... (Below threshold)

"An idea used to enforce parts of the ADA is to let private parties bring suit against offending businesses and pocket the awards."

Civil lawsuits are undertaken to remedy damages inflicted on the individual bringing the suit - which in this case would be....?

I think fish get a horrible... (Below threshold)

I think fish get a horrible death when trawlers scoop them into crowded stinky death holds. Let's ban fish sticks too! Seems a whole lot more stressful than a quick blow to the head or chop to the neck.

I think your new job and environs must be very positive. Posts are funny and thoughtful. And they seem to be occasionally very irritating to certain individuals who vie for the latest Blood For Odin award.

Beware though. Have you been reading Piers Anthony lately? You must be careful for the road to literary obscurity can be paved with atrocious puns.

Heh, I covered this ... (Below threshold)

Heh, I covered this a couple of weeks ago, as Chicago exile and a lover of foie gras it was an issue near and dear to my heart.

Let them eat foie gras

"We look at it as a choice," he said. "We live in a free-market society and if people are truly offended they won't buy it. If they don't buy it, I won't buy it."

Instead, he said, his foie gras sales have climbed, making him even less inclined to heed the law.

JB,Civil ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:


Civil lawsuits are undertaken to remedy damages inflicted on the individual bringing the suit - which in this case would be....?

Under Title II of the ADA, private parties can bring lawsuits in federal courts against government and private entities for non-compliance with the law. There's no requirement to show anyone suffered damage, only that the business in non-compliance. Theoretically, the complainant can't seek money, but the act allows payment of legal expenses to the tune of 250 per hour, with the result that there are a number of lawyers and law firms bringing hundreds of lawsuits in some areas (see January 26-27 -- Florida ADA complaint binge).

It's not the particulars of the law that are interesting, but the principle of empowering private citizens to take it upon themselves to enforce the law through the user of lawsuits. It's that principle that could be applied to other difficult to enforce laws such as immigration.

This reminds me of a biogra... (Below threshold)

This reminds me of a biography that I read of Teddy Roosevelt. At the very beginning of his career he was appointed or elected DA in NYC. There was a bar-closing law that everyone hated and ignored. He started to aggressively enforce it. Bar owners and patrons complained loudly, but he explained that he was only obeying the law. Eventually the city council repealed the ordinance.

It got Teddy a lot of publicity, a reputation as an honest DA (a big deal in NYC) and jumpstarted his political career.

Animal rights activists are... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Animal rights activists are the biggist jerks around their always forcing their stupid vegan lifestyles on everybody and in the windy city these PETA jerks will soon be banning fastfood restruants or maybe hot dogs will be next frankly its time for us to tell these vegan freaks to stuff their garden burder up their private parts and get a life

Mac, The ADA priva... (Below threshold)


The ADA private enforcement mechanism (as draconian and subject to abuse as it is) still requires that the person seeking to enforce the law is aggrieved -- as in, handicapped -- i.e., the plaintiff still has to demonstrate standing. (For some really egregious examples, see this.)

Who has standing to enforce the foie gras ban? The goose's survivors? The "Save the Goose Foundation?"

If we get to the point where PETA is given standing to protect the welfare of geese bred in captivity, I'm taking my rifle into the mountains.






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