Belgian region ends force-feeding as last foie gras farm closes

The Flemish region of Belgium, Flanders, will no longer force-feed animals to produce foie gras as the region closed its last production plant at the start of 2023.

Read the original French article here.

The decision to put an end to the practice comes after the Flemish Animal Welfare Minister Ben Weyts promised to abolish force-feeding by the end of 2023.

This means Flanders will be leaving the circle of foie gras producers in the EU, including in France, Hungary, Bulgaria and the rest of Belgium.

“I am pleased that the company does not necessarily want to continue,” Weyts said after the foie gras producer announced its decision to close one year ahead of schedule.

“We don’t want these activities in Flanders anymore, but we have provided compensation. In this way, the company can stop these activities in a dignified way,” he added.

Backed by the animal protection associations, Weyts said it was time to say “goodbye to an outdated practice”.

The news comes following a ban on slaughter without stunning in fur production farms.

An incomprehensible decision

But according to Euro Foie gras, an association promoting the product and the farms in Europe, this decision is incomprehensible.

“Belgian producers are setting an example in terms of animal welfare, with their good practices certified by the public services,” the association said in 2019 when the Flemish parliament decided to adopt a decree banning force-feeding.

“They do not understand this attack on their production when their animals benefit from the highest welfare standards in the world,” it added at the time.

Noting that the European Commission ensures the legitimacy of foie gras production in European regulationsm Marie-Pierre Pé, director of Cifog, the interprofessional committee of foie gras, and organiser of Euro Foie Gras, told EURACTIV that this disappearance “impoverishes the European heritage in its consumption traditions”.

Still selling foie gras

As per the ban, the Flemish company can continue to sell foie gras, but will do so from France or Belgium’s other region of Wallonia.

In Wallonia, force-feeding is still authorised and practised by around ten manufacturers who account for 0.1% of the EU’s production and cover 5% of Belgium’s consumption.

“It’s like banning pudding in France,” acknowledged Cifog’s director, adding that “we are attacking an isolated producer. This is all the more saddening.”

At the same time, environmental associations like Gaia are looking to widen the ban to the rest of Belgium.

Last December, the association submitted a petition to the Walloon parliament, which received more than 6,650 signatures, including 1,578 electronic signatures, to ban the practice.

“Flanders is taking the lead in Europe for more animal welfare,” Weyts said, adding that a “civilised society has a duty to avoid animal suffering as much as possible”.

Even though the industry in Wallonia remains relatively modest with just over a hundred employees, those defending foie gras believe the high consumption of Belgian products in the world’s second-largest consumer of the delicacy will help keep the industry afloat for many years to come.


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