By Martin Banks - 16th October 2012
I am here today to defend this industry
California's controversial ban on the sale of foie gras has been condemned by French MEP Francoise Castex.
The Socialist member also told a news conference on Tuesday that the ban represented a "battle for Europe".
Her comments come after a US judge recently ruled that the ban can remain in effect, while producers of the delicacy, made from the livers of force-fed ducks, challenge the constitutionality of the law.
California banned foie gras on July 1 in a move hailed by animal-rights activists, but it was denounced by the industry in France as a violation of international trade rules.
The ban on foie gras was originally signed into law in 2004 by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Enforcement was postponed for almost eight years to let producers find an alternative to force-feeding; however no substitute method has come to light.
The law bans force-feeding ducks or geese to make foie gras within California and bars sales of foie gras produced elsewhere "if it is the result of force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size".
Violators can be fined as much as €1000.
Castex has organised a conference in parliament on Wednesday as part of opposition to what she called this "very negative" ban.
Describing the controversy as a "European issue," she said that it was not just producers in south west France which would be affected by the ban.
"There are five member states where foie gras is produced, not just France," she declared.
The other four member states are Hungary, Bulgaria, Belgium and Spain.
Castex said the foie gras sector was responsible for 30 per cent of the local economy in the region she represents.
Her comments were echoed by Guillaume Garot, the French minister for the agri-food industry, who said, "It's a bad idea that is not going to do anything. We are talking about a whole food system that is really in trouble."
He said that production of foie gras was a "cornerstone" of French cuisine, adding, "It is something we can be proud of".
The minister pointed to the economic importance of the sector, saying it directly supported 35,000 jobs.
"I am here today to defend this industry and the jobs it supports. We badly need these jobs, particularly at the current time."
He added, "Foie gras is also a lifestyle choice and is conducive to social gatherings, which again is something important at the current time."
On claims by the animal welfare lobby that production of foie gras involves cruelty, he said, "French producers have done their utmost to improve animal welfare and will continue to do so."
Further comment came from Mickael Tenenbaum, a lawyer who is involved in the French legal challenge to the US ban.
He said, "Foie gras is healthy and tasty and poses no risk to animals. We need to ensure that others do not follow the Californian example."
Andre Daguin, a renowned French chef who serves foie gras, also made a robust defence of the product, saying that ducks and geese involved in its production were raised as "humanely as possible".
He added, "The animals do not suffer. We would not be able to produce it if they did. We have to decide: either we continue to kill animals in order to eat or we stop and die of hunger."