Councillor tries to remove 'cruel' foie gras from city restaurants menus

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The Independent Online

The French love it so much that they have introduced laws to ensure it is protected as part of their gastronomic heritage. While in Israel and Argentina its production has incited such revulsion that farmers are banned from selling it.

Now it is the turn of the citizens of York to decide whether to indulge or condemn the eating of foie gras - the liver of force-fattened geese and ducks.

Councillors in York will to be asked tomorrow to remove foie gras from the menus of all the city's restaurants. It would be the first restriction of its kind in Britain.

Paul Blanchard, the Labour councillor leading the campaign, has described the force-feeding of ducks and geese, essential to the preparation of foie gras, as torture. His proposal has already received backing from animal rights groups across the world. But the vote is likely to split the council.

Fattened goose liver has been a Middle Eastern delicacy at least since the days of the pharoahs, 5,000 years ago. Those who have tried foie gras say its musty, meaty taste is one of the gastronomic wonders of the world. But animal rights groups argue that the birds suffer greatly.

Mr Blanchard's motion calls on the council to declare that "this intolerably cruel and painful practice is unnecessary and should end". It urges the city to "do as much as reasonably possible to discourage or prohibit the sale of foie gras within the authority area".

He already has the backing of other Labour councillors and the local Green Party. Mr Blanchard wants a free vote on the issue. He said: "I have been asked why I am trying to address this issue when we are confronted with so many more pressing issues like crime and transport. I also readily accept there is much injustice afflicted upon humans that far outweigh cruelty to animals."

He added: "However, that there are greater wrongs in the world should not require us to turn a blind eye to other cruelties when they are exposed."

Chicago, in the United States, has already outlawed the sale of foie gras in its restaurants and bars. Joe Moore, an alderman in the 49th ward of Chicago, said: "If the City of York Council passes this motion, it will make a profound moral statement against cruelty, and send a powerful message that it upholds the values of a civilised and humane society."

According to Compassion In World Farming, the ducks and geese have a pipe forced down their necks, pumping food into them up to three times a day. By the time they are slaughtered, their livers will have swollen to about 10 times their normal size. They can suffer from internal bleeding and have problems walking and breathing, the charity says.

Marie-Claire Macintosh, of the charity, said: "We applaud the City of York Council in its pioneering efforts to get foie gras banned on cruelty grounds. The method to produce this 'delicacy' is brutal and inherently cruel and has no place in a civilised society."

Mr Blanchard added: "We are still one of the biggest importers of foie gras from France, and until that stops, the torture of these birds is on all our consciences."