The Nose was in a seriously good mood the day after Thanksgiving--childlike well-being induced by L-tryptophan and pinot noir, plus a couple of Bud tallboys.

The Nasal humour was such, in fact, that he consented to Lady Schnozzington's desire to join the downtown retail massacre. Intoxicated by visions of brass bands, festive throngs, stressed-out baristas and being the only customer in Meier & Frank, the Nose set course for d-town.

Only to have his holiday cheer ruined.

The Nostrilmobile's approach to SmartPark was blocked by a pack of sign-waving blowhards who closed down Southwest 10th Avenue, besieged a merchant and generally glowed with self-esteem, right in the Nose's way.

The cause of this gas eruption? Fur.

A few dozen prime examples of Homo portlandus managed to forget Ukraine, Darfur and the Oregon Ducks' tragic football season. They heroically laced up plastic-based footwear, pulled on all-artificial North Face parkas, fired up Subarus, trundled downtown and stepped over or around any stray homeless people between them and their Righteous Cause. All to save a mink or two.

(Presumably, the non-natural outdoorsy jackets and shoes the Nose spied in the crowd originated from 100-percent organic humane-harvest crude oil synthesized into fabric through Buddhist prayer. No animals were harmed in the creation of these petro-based garments, folks! Unless you count U.S. Marines.)

Ordinarily the Nose would just ignore the fur fanatics. But it happened that the Sinuses were already inflamed this week by another set of animalistas. Lately, a bunch of vegan thugs has strong-armed restaurant owners into dropping foie gras, that sinful pâté of fattened goose liver, from their menus. In fact, the foie gras-tapo makes last Friday's fur protesters look like Gandhi's spiritual heirs.

With a combination of pickets, harassment and sabotage (filling up reservation books, then not showing up--classy!), a group called In Defense of Animals browbeat Hurley's, Higgins and the Heathman into 86-ing foie. The group then handed The Oregonian its hitlist of potential future victims, a tactic Tony Soprano hasn't even thought of yet.

Sure, foie makes an inviting target. It involves a nasty-sounding force-feeding regime (unlike, say, soybean cultivation, which only involves plowing under whole ecosystems). It's expensive and French, so Joe and Jane Twelvepack don't care if it disappears (though if Joe and Jane ever tasted foie, you can bet they'd start smearing it everywhere, even on each other).

But look at the joints the foie fedayeen are singling out. These are fancy restaurants--but they're also small, locally owned restaurants. Many places on In Defense of Animals' blacklist work overtime to buy sustainable, locally grown produce. In other words, the foie-stika front is persecuting some of the Portland food world's good guys--not coincidentally, people who can't afford to lose too many customers.

They could be picketing Safeway or Sysco, demanding that the super-grocer and restaurant mega-supplier encourage more environmentally friendly farming. They could be haranguing Portland Public Schools to make sure low-income kids get decent food on their cafeteria platters. They could agitate in Salem to save the small farms that will likely become subdivisions under that dumbass new land-use law.

But no. The Animal Defenders, fired up with the absolute certainty that they're right (are they secretly lobbying for Bush cabinet jobs?), instead choose to pick on the little guy. No surprise: Bullies always start by sniffing out the vulnerable.

In fact, the Nose couldn't help but notice that the Black Friday fur rally wound up in front of locally owned Schumacher's, instead of Saks. So as soon as he managed to park, he took action. He marched inside and bought the old lady a mink.

OK, not really. (The Nose is a columnist, not a publisher.) But the Beak seriously thought about it--over a foie gras sandwich he made with his own two hands. And he'd like to see them try to take it away.