Congratulations to California, USA for its legislation that now bans the production and sale of pâté de foie gras in the state.
Foie gras producers were given eight years by the legislation to develop alternative methods of production. It’s hard to imagine what form a cruelty-free alternative to foie gras might take; particularly as foie gras requires the force feeding of ducks and geese to such absurd levels that their livers become enlarged and diseased. These livers, along with other ingredients, are used to make the paté. Of course, no one came forward with an alternative and the law has come into effect.
Foie gras is produced by inserting a tube into the oesophagus (gullet) of the duck or goose through which boiled maize mixed with fat is fed. Mechanised systems can deliver the feed in just two to three seconds, allowing one person to force feed up to 400 caged ducks in an hour. Ducks are typically force-fed twice a day for 12 to 15 days and geese three times a day for 15 to 21 days. The amount of feed in each meal is abnormally large and is increased over the force-feeding period. If force-feeding is stopped, the birds greatly reduce their feed intake for several days.
California’s ban on the sale and practice of foie gras really is a huge step forward. There was a last minute push by defiant pro-foie gras restauranteurs to stop the ban. Fortunately for the ducks and geese involved, their efforts failed. As Michael Voltaggio of the Hollywood restaurant, ‘ink.’, told LA Weekly, ‘Nobody likes to be told what to do, and that’s one of the biggest problems with this whole thing. But at the end of the day, it also forces creativity.’
I like his attitude. Change forces creativity.
I like also how our colleagues at GAIA, Belgium’s leading animal welfare organisation, used their creativity to develop an alternative to foie gras. They call it Faux Gras de Gaia. It is made entirely from vegetable ingredients, including truffles. And I can testify; it’s delicious!
Although there’s no explicit law banning foie gras production in the UK, it is effectively outlawed by the law that prohibits cruelty to animals. Sadly, though, it’s still legal to sell and cook it. In 2007, one of Compassion’s supporters, Paul Blanchard, was a campaigning councillor for the City of York. He called for a ban on the sale of foie gras on ethical grounds. Despite a strong campaign, the council decided to simply investigate and compile a report. In 2006, the City of Chicago banned the sale of foie gras in restaurants and groceries but this was later repealed. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I found it was for sale online in the UK from Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, but not Sainsbury’s or Waitrose.
My close colleague, Peter Stevenson, is a lawyer and knowledgeable about foie gras. He told me, “The UK should now follow California’s lead and ban the sale of foie gras. And the European Union should outlaw the production of this inhumane luxury food. Indeed, producing foie gras is arguably already illegal as EU law stipulates that animals must not be fed in a way that “may cause unnecessary suffering or injury”. Scientific research shows that force feeding causes great suffering and can severely injure the ducks’ oesophagus. But the EU turns a blind eye to its own legislation. We need the EU to now live up to its claim to lead the world on animal welfare and to enact a clear ban on the production of foie gras”.
According to The Humane Society of the United States, the production of foie gras is banned or effectively prohibited in more than a dozen countries, where force-feeding is determined as a violation of national animal welfare laws. Amongst them is not only the UK, but also Argentina, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway and Poland.
With your active support, in April Compassion secured a commitment from Creek Project Investments PLC, a company operating in mainland China. Its plans were to operate a mega-factory farm where 100 million geese were to be force fed in a five-year period to produce foie gras. Creek Project suspended the project, pledging a review, including input from animal welfare and environmental experts. I checked their Website, which states the results of the review will be published there. We continue to monitor the situation closely.
Congratulations again to California on its victory in banning the production and sale of foie gras in the state. In the EU recently, barren battery cages were banned and a sales ban imposed on selling shell eggs from this system. With this positive precedent now set, surely the UK and EU should take the next step and follow California’s lead on the sale and production of foie gras.