Mother Goose

In our heart of hearts I think we all know there is something sinister about Mother Goose.

foiegras copy

The imaginary author of a collection of nursery rhymes, Mother Goose is usually portrayed as a dear old country women, often riding a goose.

However the  Oxford English Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes describes them as “fragments of ballads or of folk songs, remnants of ancient custom and ritual and may hold the last echoes of long-forgotten evil.” The rhymes were never actually meant for children; many were political statements, couched in enough nonsense to protect the singer from being prosecuted for treason, and set to a fun melody that was easy to remember and pass along. If children overheard, there was no real concern. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries kids were not treated like kids, but more like “adults in miniature” .

In our own sanitised times, the idea of presenting these gritty themes specifically to an infant audience seems bizarre. It outraged the Victorians, too, who founded the British Society for Nursery Rhyme Reform and took great pains to clean up the canon.  The Society condemned 100 of the nursery rhymes, including Humpty Dumpty and Three Blind Mice, for “harbouring unsavoury elements”, including “referencing poverty, scorning prayer, and ridiculing the blind… It also included: 21 cases of death (notably choking, decapitation, hanging, devouring, shrivelling and squeezing); 12 cases of torment to animals; and 1 case each of consuming human flesh, body snatching, and ‘the desire to have one’s own limb severed’.” (from the BBC culture website)

I have my own take on Mother Goose.


Going back to sustainable farming, is there any more objectionable practice than that of force feeding geese to produce pate de foie gras?


I started thinking about foie gras when I made the acquaintance of a vile person who used to like slushing it down anointed with a coulis of lychees. She would often consume this unappealing dish on consecutive days and boast about it on Twitter.

This aroused such revulsion in me that I took pains to investigate how foie gras is produced. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t.

Birds raised for foie gras spend the first four weeks of their lives eating and growing, sometimes in semi-darkness. For the next four weeks, they are confined to cages and fed a high-protein, high-starch diet that is designed to promote rapid growth. Force-feeding begins when the birds are between 8 and 10 weeks old. For 12 to 21 days, ducks and geese are subjected to gavage—every day, between 2 and 4 pounds of grain and fat are forced down the birds’ throats by means of an auger in a feeding tube.… a stick is sometimes used to force it down.” The birds’ livers grow to 20 times the normal size.

Part of the tragedy is that domestic ducks and geese usually enjoy being hand-fed by humans; however, according to one study, birds subjected to force-feeding “kept away from the person who would force-feed them … the birds were less well able to move and were usually panting but they still moved away.” Even ducks confined to cages “moved their heads away from the person who was about to force feed them.” (from the PETA website)

Their last act of resistance.


I know what I’d like to do to the geese farmers.

About pennimania

Artist, entomologist, grumbler.
This entry was posted in Pleionexia and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s