Force-feeding for foie gras on trial in France

A company producing the controversial delicacy foie gras will appear in court on Thursday after a hidden video revealed what animal activists called a mistreatment of the geese. The company claims the video is a fake.

Force-feeding for foie gras on trial in France
The geese in this picture are not the geese from the story. Photo: Pascale/Flickr
The video was uploaded to YouTube in November 2013 and shows often discomforting scenes from inside several factories where the ducks and geese are force fed. Geese are seen being stored in small cages, vomiting, and suffering from what appear to be infections.
See the five-minute video here. Viewer discretion is advised.

The video was recorded anonymously by a worker at the factory and then sent to animal activist group L214, where lobbyists conferred with veterinarians and deemed the acts as "animal cruelty".
The company, Ernest Soulard, will now appear in a French court to face charges of "aggravated abuse" and "acts of cruelty and mistreatment of animals". If convicted, company heads could face fines of up to €30,000 or two years in prison.
Roland Tonarelli, the head of the foie gras company, said that the video was both fake and misleading. 
"We're not barbarians," he told Europe 1, adding that the birds with infections "had conjunctivitis, which can happen". 
"These images aren't from our factories," he continued. "Like the scene where you can see a goose with a broken wing – you'd never find something like that in one of our buildings. These images have been falsified."
The process of "gavage", where farmers stick tubes into the birds' throats and pump corn into their stomachs, is falling out of favour among the French. A poll last month showed that almost fifty percent of the French support a force-feeding ban. 
Meanwhile 29 percent of the 1,032 people polled said they would refuse to buy foie gras in protest against the ill-treatment of animals, ten points higher than a poll in 2009.

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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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