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In the European Parliament, the battle for foie gras

LETTER FROM BRUSSELS

A duck breeding farm in Castelnau-Tursan (Landes), in September 2020.

Those who have frequented the Europe house for a long time still laugh about it. In the second half of 2000, when France occupied (as today) the French presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), Jacques Chirac had his counterparts serve foie gras… “So who doesn’t like it? »he had called out to them, drawing an awkward silence around the table.

A few months earlier, Paris had, once again, had to defend this French specialty, the production of which – the force-feeding of geese and ducks – was already causing controversy and fueling, in particular, the vindictiveness of the British, who had not yet chosen the Brexit. While several European countries had already, at the time, banned its production – but not its consumption – the French president took great pleasure in making his guests uncomfortable.

More than twenty years later, Paris is still just as vigilant when it comes to defending this dish, of which France is the world’s leading producer. A recent episode in the European Parliament bears witness to this.

Read also Foie gras, the French cultural exception

On 15 February, MEPs adopted an initiative report on animal welfare, in which it is stated that “the production of liver fat is based on breeding procedures that respect animal welfare criteria. In fact, continues this text, which has no legal value, “it is an extensive form of production, which mainly takes place on family farms, where the poultry spend 90% of their life in the open air, and where the fattening phase, which lasts between 10 and 12 days on average at the rate of two meals a day, respects the biological parameters of the animals”.

A painful episode

In reality, this passage, which made the joy of professional federations such as Copa-Cogeca or Euro Foie Gras, was added to the report thanks to an amendment by MEP Jérémy Decerle, belonging to the presidential majority of Emmanuel Macron. It was a close call for it to be adopted – by 325 votes against 321. But whatever the case, the Burgundian breeder won.

A few months before the French presidential election, the man who, until his arrival in Strasbourg in 2019, was also the president of the Young Farmers union, wanted to send a clear message to foie gras producers. And thus to forget a painful episode for the profession, which he had not managed to avoid.

In June 2021, critics of foie gras in the European Parliament had scored a point, taking advantage of a moment of inattention from the camp opposite. Within the framework, this time, of a report on “the end of the cages”an amendment that “calls on the Commission to come forward with proposals to ban the cruel and unnecessary force-feeding of ducks and geese for the production of liver fat ” had in fact been adopted by 319 votes to 251.

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