Taxpayer-subsidised Tate Modern cancels ‘barbaric’ foie gras Christmas menu

Exclusive: 'Offering this product is completely at odds with the idea of a modern institution and charity accountable to the public'

Jane Dalton
Tuesday 20 November 2018 19:52 GMT
Inside a Foie Gras Farm

An art gallery that receives tens of millions of pounds from taxpayers each year has changed its Christmas menu to remove foie gras – a food considered so cruel that its production is illegal in Britain .

Tate Modern received nearly £40m in funding this year from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, its annual accounts show.

The decision to include foie gras on its menu infuriated animal-protection campaigners, who wrote to gallery bosses saying it was unethical for a charity that is partly publicly funded to serve an item created in a “barbaric” way.

A sample Christmas menu on the gallery’s website listed a starter of “ham hock and foie gras terrine with bottled quince”. Three courses were charged at £39.50.

After The Independent asked Tate Modern to comment, it was dropped from the menu.

Foie gras comes from the fatty, enlarged livers of ducks and geese that are force-fed grain and fats, twice a day or more, until they are grossly overweight.

Last week footage was released from a French foie gras farm that activists said showed geese and ducks experiencing extreme suffering as they were force-fed using metal tubes.

The activists said they witnessed “terrified, panting ducks crammed into tiny, filthy cages, while geese struggled to escape as a vast amount of food was pumped down their throats using a large metal tube”.

The “harrowing” scenes were filmed openly during a public farm tour, Animal Equality said.

Tate is a charity and partly funded by the taxpayer, not a privately owned restaurant

Toni Shephard

Emma Milne, who witnessed the animals’ treatment, said: “The birds’ vocalisation made absolutely clear that it was an extremely unpleasant experience. If that’s what they’re happy to show you, I dread to think what some of the worse farms are like.”

Animal Equality are now asking all British restaurants not to offer foie gras.

“Tate Modern offers it only on its festive menu, not year round, so is reinforcing the idea that foie gras is a luxury product to treat yourself to at Christmas,” Toni Shephard, the group’s executive director, told The Independent. “Offering foie gras is completely at odds with the idea of a ‘modern’ institution. It is produced in a barbaric and outdated way, and production is banned in this country on welfare grounds.

“Tate is a charity and partly funded by the taxpayer – not a privately owned restaurant that is accountable to no one but its shareholders. The Tate’s own website states it is accountable to the public via parliament for the services it provides.”

The government’s grant in aid handed to Tate Modern this year was worth £38,066,000. Last year, it was £40,251,000.

Dr Shephard wrote to Tate Modern’s catering chiefs to show them the new video film, adding that foie gras “has no place on any British menu – especially one with Modern in the name.

“We hope that you will be as shocked and disgusted by this footage as we are, and will act quickly to remove foie gras from your festive menu,” the message said.

Hamish Anderson, the chief executive of Tate Catering, replied that feedback and sales information would be used to inform future menu planning.

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“We acknowledge your concerns and will take them into consideration for future menus,” he said.

Producing foie gras has been judged to cause too much suffering to be allowed in Britain – but an estimated 200 tonnes of it are imported each year, mostly from France and Spain.

Environment secretary Michael Gove came under pressure earlier this year to halt all imports into Britain of foie gras post-Brexit, when MPs including Conservative Henry Smith and animal health experts produced new evidence of the effects on birds.

Labour has already said it will halt foie gras imports, and included the pledge in a list the party published early this year of 50 proposals on animal welfare.

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