Animal rights activists protest foie gras import, trade

Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman intiates bill to ban import and trade of foie gras, receives approval from Ministerial Committee.

June 26, 2013 23:26
3 minute read.
Protesting foie gras trade and imports.

Protests of foie gras 370. (photo credit: Anonymous for Animal Rights)

Standing outside Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir’s home in Savyon early Wednesday morning, animal rights activists accused him of “forcefeeding with lies” and of undermining attempts to pass a prohibition on foie gras trade.

MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), in conjunction with the groups Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let Animals Live, initiated a bill for banning both the import and trade of foie gras and received approval for their bill from the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on June 9.

The practice of producing foie gras – a liver delicacy produced by force-feeding ducks and geese – was banned in Israel about a decade ago after the High Court of Justice deemed it abusive, but the import and sale of the product remained legal.

Two days later, the night before the bill was slated to undergo its first Knesset reading, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Likud Beytenu) filed an appeal against the bill’s passage, allegedly on behalf of Shamir.

On June 16, Shamir and Aharonovitch announced that they would be willing to remove their appeal against the bill, on the condition that the bill only prohibit the trade – and not the personal import – of the controversial product.

While Shamir at the time continually stressed that he supports the principles behind the original bill, he said he felt that implementing such legislation could violate international trade agreements and could prompt foie gras-producing countries like Hungary and France to respond with sanctions against Israel.

Retaliatory moves could potentially focus on kosher product bans, as kashrut practices have lately received negative attention among certain European animal rights activists, Shamir’s spokesman said.

In response to Shamir and Aharonovitch’s proposal, Lipman and his team responded that they would continue to pursue their current plan, until more definitive terms of the proposal were clarified.

For example, Lipman’s spokesman argued, it is still unclear whether a prohibition on trade would prevent individuals from selling foie gras that they personally import or whether the product would be restricted to home use.

Such specifications could be clarified only during the legislation process, Shamir’s spokesman had said in response.

Outside Shamir’s house on Wednesday morning, the protesters held a mock forcefeeding demonstration, in which they stuffed feeding tubes in the mouths of two caged activists.

They carried signs with phrases like “How much evil can we swallow?” and “Shamir, Aharonovitch, enough with the abuse!” “Shamir is feeding us lies,” the activists from Anonymous for Animal Rights said.

“He states that he supports the law, but in practice he is preventing voting on it and trying to empty it of its content.”

“He who is impeding the continuation of the legislation now is actually the initiator of the bill,” Shamir said in response to the morning’s protest. “I proposed to him together with my colleague, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, a solution that enables the promotion of the humane and proper purpose of animal welfare but without hurting exports and international trade agreements – by replacing the ban on imports with a ban on trade in the bill, as is done legislatively in the state of California.

This is an acceptable solution as well to the economy minister and prevents creating precedents on the subject of kosher slaughter.”

In response to these comments, Lipman charged that it is the agriculture minister who filed the appeal and that it is therefore he who is responsible for delaying the law’s passage.

“The ‘solution’ of the agriculture minister is a ban on trade, a situation that will undermine the bill’s content and will not change anything on the bottom line,” Lipman said.

“According to the suggestion of the agriculture minister foie gras will still be sold in restaurants – a situation that we are not prepared to accept.”

Regarding the kosher slaughter issue, Lipman stressed that a Jewish state advocating for animal rights from its core will see a kosher industry that has much more world repute.

While unwilling to settle on the current terms of Shamir’s proposal, Lipman explained that following in suit with Californian law could be a potential compromise – allowing imports but prohibiting all sales.

“Californian law prohibits the sale of any kind, and it could be the solution,” Lipman said.

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