FRANCE

Why France Is Temporarily Banning Foie Gras

The prohibition comes amid reports late last year that the H5N1 virus, which is potentially lethal to both humans and birds, had been found at a chicken farm in the region.

Nick Rose

Nick Rose

Photo via Flickr user H. Alexander Talbot

For France to impose a three-month ban on foie gras production, there had better be a pretty good reason.

Every year, the country force-feeds approximately 38 millions ducks and geese to provide 20,000 tonnes, or 75 percent of the world's supply, of foie gras. But, as of this week, those staggeringly high production numbers are about to take a hit, as French authorities begin to impose an outright ban of foie gras production in the southwestern part of the country.

France being France, however, it's not banning foie gras production for the same reasons as everyone else—namely the practice of shoving food into the bellies of birds with a long, metal tube, which is considered an act of animal cruelty by most animal rights groups.

READ MORE: 5 Million Chickens Are About to Be Killed to Prevent the Spread of Avian Flu

Instead, the prohibition comes amid reports late last year that the H5N1 virus, which is potentially lethal to both humans and birds, had been found at a chicken farm in the region. As a result, not one ounce of it will be produced in 18 of France's 101 administrative départments, according to Le Figaro newspaper. And, needless to say, the foie gras ban will have broad repercussions not just for consumers, but producers as well.

"This interruption to our business will cause cash flow problems, additional wage costs linked to the temporary unemployment of around 4,000 workers, and fixed costs that will have to be paid despite us not having any income," Marie Pierre Pé, a spokesperson for producers' federation Cifog, told Le Figaro.

Economically, the stakes are high, with the average French person spending 29 euros every year on foie gras, an industry valued at a whopping 2 billion euros. But for the delicious ducks and geese whose absurd existence consists solely of being force-fed for human consumption, the current ban does offer a brief moment of reprieve.