Great British Menu: Foie gras is neither great nor British

Why would the BBC be willing to appear to support such a barbaric process?

Bill Oddie
Friday 29 March 2013 11:30
Comments

Well, the Great British Menu is at it again.

Despite the fact that I and several thousand other bird lovers expressed our outrage to BBC Two last year over the inclusion of foie gras in Great British Menu recipes, the dreadful "delicacy" once again oils its way across UK airwaves in the current series, which concludes this week. In response to a public outcry, the BBC has muttered feeble excuses about not wanting to "limit the ingredients" on the show, because, after all, entertainment is an insatiable god who demands blood sacrifices – the bloodier (and fattier) the better, apparently.

Just what exactly is all the fuss about? Why is someone like me, who worked for the BBC for more than 25 years, worrying my old boss like a dog with a worn-out shoe? Foie gras has the dubious distinction of being one of the few gourmet "ingredients" that is illegal to produce in the UK, even though, paradoxically, it is legal to buy, sell and consume.

Why is foie gras production illegal in Britain? Because it is revoltingly cruel – one might argue that it is perhaps the cruellest of all the very many cruel things done to animals on today's factory farms, which is saying something. Foie gras is produced by force-feeding ducks and geese up to two kilograms of grain and fat every day via a pneumatic tube that is shoved down their throats. This process causes the birds' livers to become grotesquely enlarged, up to 10 times their normal size, or about the size of a rugby ball. If you have even the foggiest notion of the size of the average duck's abdomen, you can imagine what having a rugby ball–size liver does to the bird's other internal organs. Towards the end of the force-feeding period, birds have trouble breathing because their enlarged livers are squeezing the air out of their lungs.

Ducks and geese are waterfowl – they spend the vast majority of their time in or near water. They swim in it, drink it and use it to bathe their feathers and eyes. But ducks and geese on foie gras farms are denied access to water for swimming or bathing, which I would argue amounts to torture in and of itself. And as if that weren't bad enough, ducks on some French and Canadian farms are confined to iron maiden–like cages that keep them virtually immobilised. They cannot so much as spread a single wing, much less turn around. I would like to have a few choice words with whoever invented this medieval torture device or, better yet, invite monsieur or madame to spend a few days or weeks in the fiendish contraption.

The BBC has accurately pointed out that it is within its legal rights to serve up foie gras seven days a week, 365 days a year, if it so desires – but what about its ethical obligations? If it were to take a stand against foie gras, it wouldn't exactly be breaking new ground. Just about everyone, including animal welfare groups, actors, singers, scientists, gourmet chefs and even Formula One drivers, is united in opposition to foie gras. Retailers Selfridges, House of Fraser, Jenners and Harvey Nichols have all stopped selling it, and Prince Charles and both houses of Parliament have banished it from their menus.

By featuring foie ras so prominently, the BBC is condoning horrific cruelty and trying to create the illusion that foie gras is non-controversial, when it is anything but. As one viewer so succinctly put it, "It is neither great nor British!" If it were to disavow the production and consumption of foie gras, the BBC would send an invaluable message to its viewers, not to mention save the lives of some of the fascinating birds I used to educate people about on its broadcasts.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in