Pamela Anderson’s foie gras fight ruffles French feathers

Former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson set feathers flying in the French parliament on Tuesday when she turned up to support a ban on force-feeding ducks and geese to make foie gras.

Pamela Anderson's foie gras fight ruffles French feathers
'A turkey stuffed with silicon': It doesn't appear Pamela Anderson was given a warm welcome in the National Assembly. Photo: AFP

The 48-year-old one-time Playboy model was invited to parliament by a member of the green EELV party, which wants to introduce a draft law to ban the practice.

Anderson appealed to lawmakers to abolish force-feeding, saying that “foie gras is not a healthy product and does not have a place in a civilized society. These ducks did not have a single day of happiness in their short lives.”

The appearance of the Canadian-born actress, now an animal rights activist, caused a rare commotion in the assembly as ushers had to call police to control photographers and cameramen crowding the entrance to the small room hosting her press conference.

However, to many lawmakers and foie gras producers, Anderson's presence was a political stunt that has not gone down well.

'A turkey stuffed with silicon'

“Pamela Anderson's visit gets on my nerves and I am fed up with it,” said a spokesman for the ruling Socialists Hugues Fourage, in an apparently deliberate pun.

“It is political theatre.”

The Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions (CPNT) movement slammed the ecologist deputy who invited her, Laurence Abeille, saying she “preferred turkeys stuffed with silicon to good geese stuffed with maize from (the regions) Landes and Perigord.”

Abeille hit back at “particularly shocking, sexist, chauvinist, misogynistic comments.”

Anderson “is strongly committed to us continuing to eat well, without inflicting harm on animals”, Abeille said.

Anderson's press conference was co-organized by the foundation belonging to Brigitte Bardot – another star turned animal activist – which released results of a poll showing that 70 percent of French people are opposed to force-feeding “given that there are alternatives” to produce foie gras.

“Foie gras is not a symbol of festivity, but a symbol of death, and force-feeding is an absolutely outrageous barbarity,” Bardot said in a statement from her home in St. Tropez.

Foie gras – literally fattened liver – is a traditional French delicacy enjoyed by millions, particularly at Christmas and special occasions.

Force-feeding ducks and geese to make foie gras – a practice known as “gavage” – has been banned in several countries but remains legal in France.

However, the European Union ruled in 2011 that birds cannot be kept in individual cages and gave farms until the end of 2015 to comply.

Abeille's campaign was particularly badly received as producers are already battling an outbreak of bird flu.

Japan in December banned imports of French foie gras due to the outbreak of H5N1, which has been detected on 69 farms in southwestern France, where the bulk of French foie gras is produced.

Poultry farmers have been told that they can continue rearing the adult birds they have in production, but not raise any new chicks until their farms have been certified as sanitized.

France, which produces 75 percent of global foie gras, exported nearly 5,000 tonnes of it in 2014.

The thick liver pate is made by using a tube to force-feed corn into ducks and geese, fattening them to around four times their natural body weight.

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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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