C’tee approves bill banning foie gras imports, sales

Dov Lipman: Israel should become first country to prohibit trade of force-fattened liver.

June 9, 2013 17:27
4 minute read.
Man force feeds goose

Man force feeds goose 370. (photo credit: Anonymous for Animal Right)


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The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved the launch of a bill on Sunday that would prohibit the trade of liver originating from ducks or geese that have undergone forced-fattening processes.

Drafted by the organizations Anonymous for Animal Rights and Let Animals Live, the bill to ban the import and sales of such liver – known commonly as foie gras – was launched by MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) and has garnered the signatures of 20 Knesset members.

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The Israeli government banned the practice of forcefeeding waterfowl about a decade ago, when the High Court of Justice deemed the activity to be illegal abuse.

Nonetheless, to this day, importing and selling foie gras from ducks and geese who have been force-fattened abroad has remained legal, Anonymous explained.

“Forced-fattening is a barbaric torture that must be done away with completely,” a statement from Anonymous said. “People are inserting tubes into the throats of geese and ducks and feeding them monstrous quantities of food, in order for their livers to swell to pathological proportions. Since force-feeding was banned in Israel, a ban on the trade of foie gras is clearly required.”

Although praising the approval by the committee, Anonymous leaders called the win an “interim victory,” as the bill must still pass through a forthcoming vote in the Knesset.

That being said, the organizations acknowledged that the issue has been receiving increased national attention as of late.

“The bill seeks to complete the ban on force-feeding of waterfowl, in the spirit of the Californian legislation, because all foie gras, whether made in Israel or abroad, is contrary to Israeli public policy,” the bill’s explanatory notes read.

“The bill also will help protect animals, because responsibility for their injury rests not only on direct abuse but also on he who creates the demand for the product involved in the abuse.”

In April, the Agriculture Ministry also expressed renewed concern about the practice, after a defendant convicted of animal abuse by force-feeding in 2010 filed for an appeal of his conviction with the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court. The court accepted the defendant’s appeal after determining that there was no scientific manner to prove the suffering of the geese.

“Israeli society has decided to ban the force feeding in order to put an end to this abuse,” Lipman said. “It is our duty to protect the helpless.

It is a matter of elementary logic and fairness, which is also an obligation of the halachic prohibition on causing grief to animals.”

For Lipman, the bill embodies a sense of Jewish values and basic human morals, ideas that he hoped would be key to laws he would champion as a Knesset member, he told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

“That’s what brought me to the Knesset to begin with,” he said.

When the animal rights organizations showed him footage of the foie gras production process, Lipman said that it took him “about five seconds of watching it” to decide to take on this bill.

“I don’t even have the ability to step on an ant,” he continued. “I have this personal feeling of compassion that’s in place.”

Although explaining that his children love animals, Lipman acknowledged that his support for the bill was not necessarily coming from “a life full of animals around” him but rather from his opinion that this cause is one that the Jewish state must espouse.

In addition to Lipman, who initiated the bill in the government, the 20 signatories of the bill come from a diverse range of parties across the political spectrum, including MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), MK Merav Michaeli (Labor), MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu), MK Shimon Ohayon (Likud Beytenu), MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) and MK Dov Henin (Hadash).

Obtaining such a wide array of support was particularly important to Lipman, who stressed that he has made clear that “the issue of animals and the mistreatment of animals” is a subject critical to his role as a politician.

Accompanying the bill is an intense social media campaign led by the animal rights groups, including photos of volunteers bearing yellow “rubber duckies” and the slogan “Force-feeding, not on my plate.”

In addition to its prohibition in Israel, foie gras production has also been banned in Italy, the United Kingdom, Poland, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Turkey, Australia and Argentina, according to Anonymous.

The state of California, meanwhile, banned both foie gras production and trade in a bill signed several years ago by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which went into effect last summer.

No country has yet banned both the production and trade of foie gras, and California has become the only state to do so, Lipman said.

“That’s something which is a great example, and we should be the first country [to do so],” he added.

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