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French mayor’s foie gras ban prompts fury from farmers

A French mayor's decision to ban the controversial delicacy foie gras from official receptions has sparked a backlash from local producers.

A sign showing a goose outside a foie gras shop in a street near Strasbourg's Christmas market
Photo: Frederick Florin / AFP

The Green mayor of Strasbourg Jeanne Barseghian used her discretionary powers to remove foie gras from the menu of official events ‘in the name of animal welfare’ soon after she took office in 2020.

But her decision was not made public – and had gone unnoticed – until an article published in Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace, a day before the city’s famous Christmas market was due to open to the public. 

Until then, “foie gras [had been] served sparingly, on canapés or sometimes as an appetiser at dinners,” according to officials at Strasbourg’s city hall.

The article was published after international animal welfare group Peta had sent the mayor a gift of a basket of ‘faux gras’ to thank her for her stance, and to mark World Day Against Foie Gras, after she had revealed her decision in a reply to an earlier letter.

But the news dismayed local producers, who point out that Strasbourg was known as ‘the capital of foie gras’ in the 19th century.

“This is a somewhat surprising announcement, one day before the opening of the Christmas Market. Our association has stands there,” the president of the foie gras producers of Alsace – a group of about a dozen farmers – who raise ducks and geese for processing told Le Figaro

The news “tarnishes the image of Alsatian foie gras, a product renowned throughout France,” he said.

“Is she going to take down the Gänseliesel in the Parc de l’Orangerie?” he added, referring to the statue sculpted in 1898 of the young girl leading a flock of geese which references the practice. 

“Are we going to eliminate all animal products, meat and fish, from official tables? Is it normal for the mayor of Strasbourg to impose a personal choice?” another producer, a fifth-generation farmer, asked. 

The farmers have the backing of regional politicians.

“Goose foie gras is a  local product, the tradition is linked to Christmas and Advent,” said Grand-Est regional President Jean Rottner.

More usually associated with the south west of France, foie gras has long been controversial because of the methods of production, which involves force-feeding ducks or geese until the develop the distinctive ‘fatty’ liver. 

Member comments

  1. Food production should never involve the torture of animals. Why is the EU and their ‘lauded standards’ ok with this ?

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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