Force-feeding for foie gras: new investigation reveals this inhumane practice still occurs in the EU, despite high sanctions in most Member States
Recently, the European Parliament hosted a meeting of the parliamentary Intergroup for Animal Welfare, in which footage was shown revealing the horrific reality of force-feeding in foie gras production on a farm in France. Ways forward to finally solve this problem in relation to EU law were suggested by attendees.
The use of force-feeding for foie gras production in the EU
Force-feeding ducks and geese for foie gras production is a form of animal abuse that has already been made illegal in 22 EU Member States, plus two of the three Belgian regions. As Adolfo Sansolini, Advisor to Eurogroup for Animals and Consultant to GAIA, explained at the Intergroup, sanctions in those countries if animals were force-fed for foie gras production could reach fines of up to €800,000, and imprisonment for up to six years.
Sadly, force-feeding for foie gras production remains legal in France, Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain and Wallonia. It’s difficult to understand why. Not only has scientific evidence shown the practice of force-feeding to be unnecessarily cruel and detrimental to the welfare of animals, but citizens across the EU have called for its end as well through surveys like the ‘Attitudes of Europeans towards Animal Welfare’ Eurobarometer (2016), through which 94% of participants said they believed it was important to protect the welfare of farmed animals.
A future without force-feeding: how can the EU move forward?
It’s clear this mistreatment can’t be allowed to go on. EU institutions must ensure that citizen and animal welfare concerns, rather than niche sectoral interests, are represented and defended in legislation. ‘Traditional’ animal-derived foods (an umbrella under which foie gras arguably falls) should not undermine ethical and scientific progress, and currently, the fact that this practice is still enabled by European law undermines the EU’s global reputation for high animal welfare standards.
Sansolini explained two ways to end force-feeding for foie gras production:
1. Foie gras production can be made possible without the use of force-feeding: To achieve this, the arbitrary requirement of minimum liver weights - introduced in the European Regulation on marketing standards for poultry meat in 1991 (and maintained in the 2008 version) - must be removed. This would generate fairer competition for farmers across the EU, allow consumer choice, and level the playing field for the companies and countries that have adopted higher standards. DG AGRI is responsible for this piece of legislation;
2. Force-feeding can be banned altogether in the EU and without exemptions: Therefore fully implementing Directive 58/98/EC, which states that “No animal shall be provided with food or liquid in a manner (…) which may cause unnecessary suffering or injury”.
Reineke Hameleers, CEO of Eurogroup for Animals, commented that “millions of European citizens look with hope at the work of Commissioner Wojciechowski to make foie gras production without force-feeding possible, giving back choice to citizens and ending the discrimination on the market of higher-welfare producers. The time has come to end the scandal of force-feeding for good, by including a ban in the proposals that Commissioner Kyriakides is preparing on farm animal welfare.”