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French foie gras producers vow to fight California ban

The US state of California is to ban the sale of foie gras from Sunday 1 July on animal welfare grounds. French producers have vowed to fight the ban, arguing that it is a breach of international free trade rules.

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Californian lawmakers argue that the process of gavage, by which geese or ducks’ livers are fattened, is cruel, a charge producers in France, Bulgaria and Hungary deny.

France’s foreign affairs ministry backs the foie gras producers and has promised to fight the Californian law.

French animal rights campaign L214 claims that 80 per cent of French producers break European Union law on foie gras production by keeping birds in individual cages that severely restrict their movement.

The industry committee Cifog has asked for a meeting with Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll on Monday, pointing out that their Bulgarian and Hungarian colleagues have asked their governments to take the question to the World Trade Organisation.

Very little French foie gras is currently sold in the US thanks to increasingly tough veterinary and sanitary restrictions and increased tariffs but Cifog says it will fight the ban to defend producers’ image.

"Since we respect the physiology of the animal, we cannot just let this go without reacting," Cigof representative Marie-Pierre Pe, adding that the oesophagus of a goose or a duck has greater elasticity than that of a human.

In 2004 California gave foie gras producers seven years to change their practices but are not satisfied with the results.

The state's only producer, Guillermo Gonzalez, has had to shut down his business and some 300 restaurants in the state are ready to challenge the legislation, according to Cifog.

In 2009 the US banned the import of Roquefort cheese in retaliation for a European ban on US beef raised with hormones.

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