Pop Culture Junkette

Addicted to pop culture.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wolfgang Puck: Champion of animals?

I am so impressed with Wolfgang Puck. Yesterday, he announced that he is taking on an initiative to make his restaurants (relatively) cruelty-free, serving only eggs that come from chickens that have lived cage-free, banning foie gras (which is so inhumane that it is illegal in the UK), serving veal that comes from calves allowed to roam, ensuring their lobsters were removed from their traps quickly (avoiding super-crowded holding tanks), and serving only sustainable seafood.

Is this perfect? Of course not. Lobsters will still be cut in half while alive. And veal, which comes from baby cows, is still being served. But it is a huge step. Very few restaurants make an effort to serve humanely-handled animal products, and I can't think of any with the name recognition of Puck's that have. When combining his fine-dining establishments, smaller airport-like restaurants and catering outfits, Puck owns well over a hundred restaurants. So this is a really big deal.

Perhaps more importantly, he is bringing some publicity to the issue of how inhumanely most of the animals that eventually are served to American diners (and bought at grocery stores) are treated. There are a lot of people who simply don't think about, or know about, how the food they are eating was handled prior to getting on their plates. So hopefully this will make more people aware of the atrocities of factory farms (where many animals--including pigs, which are more intelligent than three year old children--are in such small spaces they aren't given enough space to stand, eventually making their legs totally unusable; where chickens are in such tight quarters that there claws eventually grow into the soil, making them unable to move; and where terms like "cage free" are slapped onto a carton of eggs even if the chicken was only allowed a few minutes of being outside of a tiny cage a month). I really believe that more people would care about how the animals they ingest are treated, if they were simply made aware of the current reality.

And as a vegetarian, I am also happy that he is adding more vegetarian meals to his menus. I'm sure Puck, who is not adverse to self-promotion, will make sure he gets a lot of publicity for this. Which is great, because it brings publicity to an issue that doesn't often get much.

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