Animal welfare lobby puts pressure on luxury stores to drop 'cruel' foie gras

As the peak retail season approaches, Peta plans an ad campaign and protests outside stores stocking the luxurious foodstuff. By Jonathan Owen
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The Independent Online

Dubbed the "delicacy of despair" by animal welfare campaigners, foie gras is the nation's most emotive culinary indulgence. And now a new front in the war against the luxury foodstuff has just opened up over the refusal of the department store group Selfridges to stop stocking the foodie's top treat.

This follows the collapse of talks to persuade the retailer to follow Harvey Nichols' lead in abandoning pâté of foie gras – the form in which it's most commonly encountered in this country. Foie gras – literally "fat liver" in French – has become the target of a "torture in a tin" campaign by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). Campaigners accuse the store of supporting a cruel industry "in which ducks and geese are force-fed until their livers become painfully diseased and enlarged."

A series of protests will be held outside Selfridges, as well as other stores that continue to sell foie gras, including Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, in the run-up to Christmas – the peak time of year for sales of the expensive delicacy.

Now Peta, best known for its powerful anti-fur campaign, has produced a new advertisement featuring a former Miss UK, Brooke Johnston, being force-fed through a tube with the tagline "Get a Taste for Foie Gras". Ms Johnston said: "I feel that animals are voiceless and that it is our responsibility to help them and contribute to their well-being."

Peta campaigner Karen Chisholm said: "To create foie gras, pipes are shoved down birds' throats, and up to 4lbs of grain and fat pumped into their stomachs two or three times a day. Selfridges is out of touch with the majority of the British public, who believe foie gras sales should be banned."

But a Selfridges spokeswoman hit back last night, saying: "Real choice of a huge range of products is what customers come to us for, and foie gras fits in with the variety of speciality foods that we offer."

Next month the store will introduce what it describes as "welfare-friendly" foie gras – from geese that are not force-fed but are given unlimited amounts of food to graze on. "We are giving our customers a choice and will be promoting the welfare-friendly foie gras," the spokeswoman added. "It will sell for the same price as the traditional product – £39.99 for 180g."

Foie gras remains one of the world's most controversial foods, with force-feeding banned in 15 countries, including Britain. And in California it will be illegal to sell it from 2012.

Even a former James Bond has stepped into the row, with Sir Roger Moore lending his support for calls for an end to foie gras. In a letter that has been sent to MPs, the actor says: "If it is too cruel to produce here, surely it is too cruel to sell."