Is foie gras becoming faux pas?

The gourmet delicacy foie gras has long been a controversial matter, and the duck or goose liver pate is banned in several European countries, many American states and some parts of the Middle East because its production method involves force-feeding the ducks and geese.

Its production is prohibited in Australia, but now there is a new campaign to see a full foie gras ban to include its import.

RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty has been lobbying governments for years to have foie gras banned in Australia, saying the production method is unacceptably cruel.

“Basically how foie gras is produced is the birds’ beaks are forced open and then a tube is passed down the throat and grain is forced directly into to stomach under some form of pressure,” he said.

“They are fed a lot more than they choose to eat naturally and the feed that they’re given is, we believe, deliberately deficient in some of the basic nutrients.

“As a result of all of this the liver actually becomes massively enlarged. In fact in some cases, up to 10 times its normal size and it can accumulate so much fat that it no longer functions properly.”

But gourmet product importer and retailer Babak Hadi sees things differently.

“I grew up as a child with my grandmother force feeding her geese,” he said.

“This was not an act of cruelty. These animals would be force fed, they would walk away, they would have a drink, they would interact with the other animals in a completely normal way — there was nothing to indicate that that animal was in distress. So I don’t see the picture the animal rights activists are putting forward.

“They might take some of the extreme cases where some of the farmers have horribly mistreated their animals and yes I think they should be prosecuted. This is not acceptable. But that is not representing the industry as a whole.”

The foie gras sold in Australia is mainly imported from France and Spain and, according to Hadi, strict anti-cruelty laws are enforced there.

“There would be inspectors in all these farms making sure that these animals are not mistreated,” he said.

“I think we do have an issue with for example, foie gras produced maybe in some eastern block countries or maybe some Asian countries where we don’t have these strict laws.”

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