‘Don’t feed dogs foie gras at Christmas,’ warn vets

French dog-lovers are being warned by veterinarians that favourite Christmas foods like foie gras, smoked salmon and dark chocolate are for human consumption only, and can do serious damage to our four-legged friends.

'Don’t feed dogs foie gras at Christmas,' warn vets
French dog-lovers are being warned by veterinarians not to feed their pets favourite Christmas foods like foie gras, smoked salmon and dark chocolate. Photo: NikkileMieux/Flickr

The French, just like the British, Irish and Americans, have their own time-honoured Christmas traditions.

And just like in the English-speaking world, food plays a central role in France’s yuletide festivities.

Veterinarians, however, have made a public call for French animal-lovers, and dog-owners in particular, to resist the temptation to share their christmas treats and French delicacies with their furry friends.

Foie gras, the French Christmas delicacy par excellence, should be restricted to human consumption, said Laurent Gouardo, an emergency veterinarian at the Maisons-Afort veterinary school near Paris.

“At Christmas, I treat a lot of pancreatitis – a large inflammation of the pancreas caused by consumption of foie gras, but also by intoxication from garlic, onion and grapes,” he told AFP.

Vet Céline Moussour, another of the animal specialists coming forward this week to give French pet-owners what could be life-saving advice, told AFP on Tuesday that more common christmas treats were also hazardous to pooches.

“I had the case of a boxer dog who died of a heart attack after stealing and eating some dark chocolate at Christmas,” she said.

Likewise, the high salt content in smoked salmon and ham – traditionally served over Christmas in France – means they should be kept away from Fido, warned Gouardo, another of the animal specialists coming forward this week to give French pet-owners what could be life-saving advice.

As well remembering not to feed Christmas treats like chestnuts to canine companions, dog-owners should also be wary of other features of the festive season.

Attention should be paid to the traditional tree in the corner of the living room, and plant-based decorations that young dogs might chew on, says Céline Moussour.

The expert in herbal medicine has some advice for dog-lovers who just can’t help themselves when they see those slobbering, pleading faces.

“If you want to treat them, you can give them a little bit of lean meat,” she says, “but no bone, and no sauce.”

“Or, you can buy them some special little doggy treats to put under the tree as a present,” Moussour added.

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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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