You cannot produce foie gras in the U.K., but you can buy it – although perhaps not for much longer.
Press speculation earlier this week that sale of the product may be outlawed prompted the country’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to issue a slightly ambiguous response, but the product does look likely to be disappearing from shop shelves and restaurant menus soon.
DEFRA has stated that now that the U.K. has left the European Union, the government is exploring further restrictions that could be introduced to address welfare concerns around foie gras production, adding that it has made clear that production from ducks or geese using force feeding raises serious welfare concerns.
Foie gras tends to generate strong emotions in the U.K., with some strongly in favor and some strongly against. The U.K. banned its production through the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
The tide does seem to be turning against the product in the U.K. Upmarket central London supermarket Fortnum & Mason announced last month that it would phase out the sale of it. The shop had been the target of a 10-year campaign to persuade it to stop stocking foie gras.
I happened to find myself in this said supermarket a few years ago at the very moment when a foie gras protest took place.
With placards aplenty and voices raised the protestors peacefully marched through the store before heading out into the street. A civilized protest if ever there was one!
What was disappointing, however, was that, on speaking to one of the protestors, her views not only on foie gras production but also on poultry production in general were so ill-informed that I truly wondered if she was at the right demonstration!
And there would appear to be ignorance on all sides. A chef from a Michelin-starred London restaurant arguing in favor of the product told the press that if the government was concerned about animal cruelty then it should ban “battery chicken.” Exactly what he meant by that I am not sure, but battery cages for laying hens have not been used in the European Union or the U.K. since January 1, 2012.
While a number of countries and companies have ceased foie gras production, there are others that have seen output increase. If sale in the product is banned in the U.K., will it simply lead to a black market with holiday makers smuggling it back in their suitcases or attempting to have it shipped in via online retail pages?