Our meat could be next: Minister fights California foie gras ban

France has ruled out going to the World Trade Organisation but will continue to oppose a ban on French speciality foie gras, a minister said on Monday.

Our meat could be next: Minister fights California foie gras ban
Photo: Aubin Larette (File)

"To file an appeal before the World Trade Organization would not be the right solution," Guillaume Garot, junior minister for food and agriculture, told members of the industry during a visit to the south-west Gers region.

"We would risk losing and facing retaliatory measures," he added.

But Garot said the California ban was a wake-up call for the industry, illustrating the strength of lobby groups in the English-speaking world who oppose the product, which is a delicacy in French cuisine.

Animal welfare groups have opposed the production of foie gras because it is made by force-feeding geese and ducks.

"We have to react now, put a stop to this tendency…," said Garot.

"We first of all have to convince our American friends that they have got the wrong end of the stick," he added.

Producers have also expressed fears that the foie gras ban may trigger a chain reaction, newspaper La Depeche reports.

“It is very clear what is at stake: today, foie gras, tomorrow, meat," said Garot. "The lobbyists in California and the United States are extremely powerful.”

Garot is already due to have talks with the US ambassador, and he said he would also take part in an educational event at the European Parliament in Brussels on October 16th.

The government would also look at ways of helping the foie gras industry find new customers in China and Russia, he added.

On July 1st, California introduced a ban on foie gras, a measure welcomed by animal rights campaigners but opposed by sections of the catering industry there.

A Los Angeles restaurant group and others active in the food industry there filed a lawsuit earlier this month arguing that the ban was "unconstitutional, vague and interferes with federal commerce laws".

In France, the foie gras industry directly creates 35,000 jobs, and 90 percent of national production is consumed in the country.

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Ban ‘barbaric’ French foie gras, Danish politicians urge EU

Danish left-wing party SF (Socialist People’s Party) wants a debate on whether it should be legal to produce and sell French delicacy foie gras in the EU.

Ban 'barbaric' French foie gras, Danish politicians urge EU
File photo: Benoit Tessier / Reuters / Ritzau Scanpix

The party, a parliamentary ally of the governing Social Democrats, wants foie gras banned in the European Union and has called its production “barbaric”.

“It is one of the most barbaric ways food can be produced. These birds are treated very badly, and we don’t think it’s okay,” SF spokesperson on food Carl Valentin said.

“Danes have actually already morally rejected this to a large extent. Consumption is falling fast [in Denmark, ed.] and production is already illegal in Denmark. That’s why we’re focusing on this issue,” Valentin continued.

Discussion of the matter by politicians follows a decision by management at Torvehallerne, an upscale food market in Copenhagen, to recommend its concession holders not to sell the French dish, a paté made from the livers of geese or ducks.

Torvehallerne made the decision after customers posted complaints on its Facebook page over the sale of foie gras at Ma Poule, a stand at the market which sells French specialities.

Although production of the delicacy is banned in Denmark, importing it is not, as such a ban is prevented by European Single Market laws.

Foie gras production involves overfeeding geese and duck for the last two weeks before they are slaughtered. This causes them to develop fatty liver disease, with the organ expanding to six to ten times its normal size, according to Danish animal welfare charity Dyrenes Beskyttelse.

90 percent of foie gras now comes from geese, rather than duck, which was previously the preferred bird, according to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA). Although the majority of production is in France, the foodstuff is also made in Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary.

EU rules do forbid foie gras from being produced in places where it has not previously been made, according to the DVFA website.

Valentin said he wanted the union to outlaw what he termed a “dish for the upper classes”.

“The reason I mention the upper class is that this is very much a dish for the upper classes. I think it’s sad that there’s so little focus on animal welfare and more thought goes to pleasing taste buds than protecting animals,” the SF spokesperson said.

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