Tidings of Comfort and Foie Gras

Leave it to Tony Bourdain to force-feed ducks on his Christmas special: Nothing really says “Happy Holidays!” like a duck with a tube shoved down its throat. I mean, what’s next? Eating a Rudolph the Reindeer roast for Christmas dinner? (Actually, that wouldn’t be out of the ordinary in Alaska or Finland.)

Nobody but Bourdain would tackle the hotly debated subject of foie gras production on a holiday special, but the show did make a valid case for “fatty liver.” For one thing, the ducks at the Hudson Valley farm he visits aren’t shackled in miniature torture chambers as PETA suggests; they’re gently handled by a woman who tilts back their heads and pours some food down their throats. It could be editing magic, but in the shots used on the show, the ducks don’t shy away from this woman—and they certainly don’t yelp (or quack) in pain. As Bourdain watches the duck feeder from the sidelines, he says, “She’s nice. She likes animals. She’s not evil!”

Then Bourdain talks with a veterinarian who explains that ducks aren’t built like people—they breathe through a hole in their tongue, which is why shoving food down their throats doesn’t cause them to gasp for air. They don’t choke on the forced food, they just eat more than they normally would. And according to this vet, “Ducks in the wild are under more stress than these ducks.”

The show re-airs tonight (Wednesday, December 12) at 11 p.m. on the Travel Channel. (And even if you have your DVR set to record No Reservations, you have to manually set it to record this show—it’s listed as “Anthony Bourdain’s Holiday Special.”)

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