Foie gras should be banned from Parliament’s menus as symbolic gesture, MPs hear

Conservative MP Giles Watling said he would raise the symbolic ban on the controversial food with Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

David Lynch
Tuesday 24 October 2023 18:13 BST
The Houses of Parliament Parliament should ban foie gras, a pate made of goose or duck liver, from its menus as a symbolic gesture, an MP has said (Anthony Devlin/PA)
The Houses of Parliament Parliament should ban foie gras, a pate made of goose or duck liver, from its menus as a symbolic gesture, an MP has said (Anthony Devlin/PA) (PA Archive)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Foie gras should be banned from the Houses of Parliament’s dinner menus as an “act of symbolism” aimed at discouraging animal cruelty, ministers have been told.

Conservative MP Giles Watling (Clacton) said he would be writing to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to raise the gesture with him, even though he did not think the delicacy was on any of Westminster’s menus.

Producing foie gras, a pate made from goose or duck liver, is banned in the UK because it relies on force feeding birds.

Mr Watling raised the prospect of banning its import to the UK in a Westminster Hall debate, warning that some restaurants and retailers which still sold it had a “business advantage” over others who chose not to for ethical reasons.

A strong act of symbolism would be to ban the product here too and that is something I will be raising with Mr Speaker

Giles Watling

Boris Johnson had championed plans to ban its import while prime minister, but ministers have since suggested they would shelve this proposal.

Mr Watling claimed there was “clearly an appetite in the Government to go down the route of banning cruel imports”, drawing attention to past bans on whale meat and ivory imports.

He told MPs: “We have the situation that foie gras has been banned in royal residences since last year. I will not break any protocol by speaking here but I think it prudent to mention that this place is a royal residence and still belongs to the Crown as a royal palace.

“Like all colleagues I am a humble and obedient servant to the Crown and I have sworn an oath of allegiance.

“Whilst to my understanding foie gras is not on any of the menus of the estate, a strong act of symbolism would be to ban the product here too and that is something I will be raising with Mr Speaker.”

Buckingham Palace declined to comment when reports of the King’s ban on foie gras first emerged, though it was understood to have been in place for a number of years.

The King previously removed the controversial pate from his royal residences while still the Prince of Wales.

Bob Stewart, the Tory MP for Beckenham, joined calls for ministers to reconsider the ban, telling the debate: “Ducks, geese, are sentient animals. They have feelings. Imagine all of us stuck in a cage, someone opening our mouths and stuffing stuff down our throats.

“God how awful that would be. We have got to get rid of this stuff.”

Environment minister Rebecca Pow told MPs that animal welfare laws had already banned the production of foie gras in the UK, and suggested retailers were taking steps to restrict its sale, while members of the public were choosing not to buy it due to ethical concerns.

She said: “He will also know that some supermarkets have already banned foie gras, and as he says King Charles will not have it served.

“So actually, already, we as customers have a choice not to buy it and certainly not to eat it.

“I certainly would never buy it or eat it.”

But Mr Watling urged ministers to go further, responding: “Many businesses in the private sector are indeed banning the product, refusing to sell it. Fortnum & Mason a short walk from here have banned it from their shelves in 2021. But by allowing restaurants and retailers to sell foie gras, the United Kingdom is putting animal torture and suffering in place.

“It is time to take an ethical stance on that because it gives a business advantage to those who still sell foie gras, because it is still legal and available to do.”

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