France imposes three-month ban on making foie gras

Producers of foie gras say they'll lose millions from a three-month ban on production that started on Monday, prompted by a bird flu scare in the south west of France.

France imposes three-month ban on making foie gras
Photo: AFP
The ban means that breeders in 18 départements in southwestern France aren't allowed to have any ducks or geese in their slaughterhouses or production rooms until mid August. 
“My gavage room is empty,” breeder Florence Lasserre told the France Info channel, referring to the room where ducks and geese are force-fed grain. 
“Usually it's full here, and it feels a bit lonely now, but the main thing is that the virus doesn't return.”
The virus that Lasserre refers to is the highly virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu that was identified at a chicken farm in Dordogne in November, triggering intervention by veterinary watchdogs.
H5N1 is is highly lethal to birds but does not infect humans easily, although when it does it is fatal in about 60 percent of cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
The potential for infection comes when a human is in very close contact with a live bird which is sick with the disease.
While the breeders' losses of an estimated €130 million will be compensated by the ministry of agriculture, the producers won't be so lucky in the following months.  
Marie Pierre Pé, spokesperson for producers' federation Cifog, said that 4,000 jobs would be affected in some way.
“This interruption to our business will cause cash flow problems, additional wage costs linked to the temporary unemployment of around 4,000 workers, and fixed costs that will have to be paid despite us not having any income,” she said, reported Le Figaro newspaper.
The 18 départements that are affected correspond to over 70 percent of France's total foie gras output, meaning firms that produce foie gras could be out of pocket by €140 million, she added. 
And it's not just foie gras. They'll also be losing out on sales of other duck-based staples of the French diet, such as magrets de canards and confits de canards.
Producers are expected to fork out for new biosecurity measures too, the exact details of which are yet to be announced by the government, but which are estimated to come at a cost of €220 million.  
Customers of the “fatty liver” may be hit too, as the shortage could see prices shooting up. 
There will be 9 million ducks fewer on the market this year, one farmer told Le Figaro, adding that the price for consumers “will have to go upwards”.
The typical French person spends around €29 a year on foie gras, the paper reported. 

France, which produces 75 percent of global foie gras, exported nearly 5,000 tonnes of it in 2014. Production in the Dordogne is covered by a “protected geographical indication” label – a European Union (EU) scheme to defend local skills and values from imitation.
The luxury dish has become a battleground between animals-rights campaigners and defenders of France's gourmet traditions.
Force-feeding – known as “gavage” in France – has been banned in several countries but is legal in France.
Bird flu forces halt in poultry farming in south west France

Gendarmes wearing masks stand outside a house where an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has been detected in chickens, on November 25, 2015 in Biras. Photo: AFP

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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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