Foie grasThe title of today’s meeting of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals in the European Parliament in Strasbourg was: ‘Foie gras: The cruelty behind the delicacy’.

The speakers illustrated the present situation of foie gras production in Europe, in relation to scientific knowledge on animal welfare, the perception of French citizens, and the attitude of the European Commission.

 Adolfo Sansolini, consultant for Belgian animal welfare organisation GAIA, presented an analysis of over 20 parliamentary questions on the topic of foie gras production, already answered by the EU in this term of the European Parliament. He highlighted the inconsistency of some answers, the insufficient monitoring of foie gras production in the EU, and the problems generated by an EU Regulation that de facto obliges producers to force-feed the animals.

“Since 1998” – said Sansolini – “only three farms have been checked, and all of them presented problems. The Commission has repeatedly stated that it does not have almost any information on whether foie gras producers comply with EU laws, but at the same time no actions are planned to correct this situation. Furthermore, an urgent need exists to delete from Regulation (EC) 543/2008 the minimum liver weights of ducks and geese used in foie gras production, in order to stop penalising on the market those producers who do not force-feed their animals”.

 Christophe Marie, spokesman of the Fondation Brigitte Bardot, showed the results of a survey conducted in France at the beginning of 2016, which shows the opposition of French citizens – the main consumers of foie gras in the world – to the use of force-feeding in foie gras production.

“The results of this survey” – said Mr Marie – “show that precisely those consumers who appreciate foie gras the most, but 70% condemn the force-feeding, would like to see it produced in a way that avoids the extreme suffering caused to animals by the practice of force-feeding. We invite politicians in France and in the EU to make the necessary legislative steps to end this form of animal abuse”.

 A short video was then presented to the audience, with excerpts from two investigations conducted by French organisation L214 in 2012 and 2013. The video showed the treatment of animals farmed for foie gras production in France.

 Professor Donald Broom of Cambridge University, one of the most eminent animal welfare scientists in the world, presented a study he prepared last year together with Dr Irene Rochlitz, on the Welfare of Ducks in Foie Gras Production.

The study reviewed international scientific literature, and its conclusions highlight the need to avoid force-feeding, and to comply with some legal requirement related to housing, which are routinely ignored.

Professor Broom emphasised that present production patterns can no longer be seen as ‘traditional’, first of all because the livers of ducks rather than geese are mostly used. Severe welfare problems have been found in many aspects of foie gras production.

“Birds in foie gras production are the only farmed animals not allowed to use their basic biological mechanisms to regulate their own food intake” – said professor Broom – “and welfare can never be good if birds are force-fed. The increase in liver size caused by force-feeding is pathological, and causes poor welfare. Unless force-feeding is ended, and the housing conditions of the animals are improved, foie gras production will continue to be characterised by poor welfare”.

The Cambridge University study also mentioned possible health risks for consumers, based on the presence in the final product of amyloids, which are linked to Alzheimer’s disease and Type II Diabetes.

The presentations were followed by numerous questions asked by MEPs.


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Adolfo Sansolini,

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