UK Politics

Foie gras imports may be banned after Brexit, UK minister suggests

Ducks being raised for Foie Gras production in Bulgaria Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ducks being raised for foie gras production in Bulgaria

A luxury French food made by force-feeding ducks or geese could be banned from being imported to the UK after Brexit, a minister has hinted.

British farmers are banned from producing foie gras - meaning fatty liver - on cruelty grounds.

But restaurants and shops are allowed to import the pate-like substance under EU free-market rules.

Environment Minister George Eustice told MPs that could change when Britain left the EU, in March next year.

He was responding to a call from Conservative Henry Smith, who told MPs foie gras was "cruel to produce, unhealthy to eat and it's expensive to purchase" and it was time to ban "this outdated practice".

"Foie gras is a product derived from the livers of ducks or geese that have been force-fed maize repeatedly by having a metal tube inserted down their throats two or three times a day when they are just 12 weeks old," Mr Smith said.

"While production of this so-called delicacy, which is similar to pate, has been banned in Britain since 2000, the fact that imports of it to the UK are allowed means that the suffering and mistreatment of animals continues.

"Our country, which imports about 180 to 200 tonnes of foie gras from mainland Europe each year, sadly continues to play a part in this cruel trade."

Labour MP Kerry McCarthy said foie gras was "a product of making the animal diseased" and most people would support an import ban if they knew the "immense cruelty involved and if people realised that they were eating a diseased organ".

Foie gras facts

Image copyright Getty Images
  • 98% of duck foie gras imports to the UK come from France
  • France produced about 83% of the world's duck foie gras and 25% of its goose foie gras, MPs were told
  • Production is banned in some EU member states but it is still produced in Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain and Belgium
  • India become the first country to ban foie gras imports in 2014
  • Many UK retailers have banned the sale of foie gras, including Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Sainsbury's and Waitrose - and both Houses of Parliament
  • But it is still available to buy online and is served in pubs and restaurants
Image copyright PA

French law states that foie gras "belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France", Farming Minister George Eustice told MPs.

"While we are a member of the European Union, as [Mr Smith] pointed out, we are required to observe law which places restrictions on the introduction of measures that impair the movement of goods within the EU market."

But, he said: "When we leave the European Union, we do indeed have an opportunity to look at restrictions on sales along the lines that [Mr Smith] pointed out."

Mr Eustice added there were no barriers to an "ethical ban" on imports under World Trade Organisation rules, and some countries, such as India, had brought one in.