Foie gras diplomatic spat between France and Germany intensifies
France minister warning it could have “global repercussions”.
Foie gras producers are furious after being told their liver pâté is not welcome at the biennial Anuga food fair in Cologne in October.
Fair organisers caved in to pressure from animal rights groups who claim foie gras production is cruel.
To create the fattened liver needed for foie gras, ducks or geese must be force-fed to bloat their livers by up to ten times their normal size – a technique known in French as gavage.
While the practice is banned in Germany, the consumption of foie gras is legal and the Germans consume 170 tons of the pate every year – hence the French outrage.
In a sign of rising diplomatic tensions, Pierre Lellouche, France’s external trade minister, yesterday summoned Germany’s ambassador to Paris and called on his government to “exercise the strongest authority over the (fair) organisers and get them to respect European law” (on free movement and non-discrimination of goods).
“This is anything but anecdotal,” he said, warning that the boycott would have “global repercussions”.
His stark warning came days after the French agriculture minister, Bruno le Maire, wrote to his German counterpart, Ilse Aigner, asking her to overturn the ban and threatening to boycott the opening ceremony.
“It is important for the French foie gras sector to be present at a fair visited by numerous buyers in the period before the end of the year celebrations,” Mr Le Maine wrote. “If this exclusion is confirmed, I cannot see how I will be able to take part in the opening.”
France “rigorously applied all [European] community regulations regarding the wellbeing of animals,” Mr Le Maine insisted. Mr Aigner dismissed the letter, saying it was up to the organisers to decide on the issue.
The affair has sparked a war of words between those for and against foie gras. Joining the fray was Brigitte Bardot, the film star-turned animal rights activist, who last week urged a German minister not to bow to pressure to overturn the ban.
Animal rights campaigners claim that as few as 10 per cent of French foie gras producers respect a new EU rule forbidding housing birds in individual cages where they are unable to flap their wings to breath more easily.
Alain Fauconnier, a Socialist member of France’s senate from the Aquitaine region, where most French foie-GRAS is made, said: “It’s unbelievable. It’s like banning German sausages in France. The economic cost is enormous for us because Germany is an important market.” He has called on meat and poultry producers to boycott the German fair if the “totally discriminatory measure” is upheld.
About 37 million ducks and 700,000 geese are slaughtered each year to make French foie gras, and France accounts for 75 per cent of global production. The technique is said to have first appeared in 2500BC, when the Egyptians noticed that migratory geese were able to stock fat in their liver in preparation for long-distance flights. They found the taste succulent, so started reproducing the natural phenomenon by fattening geese with figs and cereals.