Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Amazon dump ‘very unBritish’ cruelty

Viva! claim ‘amazing victory’

Release date: 
Thursday, October 3, 2013

ANIMAL CHARITY VIVA! has today congratulated Amazon for ending the sale of controversial foie-gras in their British online marketplace.

The retail giant – the world’s largest online marketplace – has now officially prohibited its sale after pressure by the campaigning group who, earlier this year, presented the company with evidence of the abject suffering caused by its production and a petition signed by over 10,000 Amazon customers and Viva! supporters.

Viva!’s campaign followed an investigation in France which showed shockingly intensive force-feeding at a farm that supplied goods sold through the online giant**.

Foie-gras is typically made from force-feeding ducks and geese so much grain that their livers expand up to ten times their natural size. Production of foie-gras is illegal in the UK as it would break existing animal welfare law. Viva! say that British retailers should not be profiting off the back of something that might get them arrested on cruelty grounds if they produced it in the UK themselves and that others should follow Amazon’s lead.

Whilst the group welcomes the move, it says that a consumer boycott is not enough, as recent figures show that Britain now imports more foie-gras than ever before – and, as a country, we now import more from France than Germany, Italy or Holland. The group is also calling on the Government to protect our sovereign welfare laws and exploit loopholes in trade laws to ban its importation.

Justin Kerswell, campaigns manager at Viva!, says: “Foie-gras is mostly produced by imprisoning birds in cages so tiny they can’t move, by forcing a pipe down their throats and force feeding them until their livers swell to ten times their natural size. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to eat it – or be involved in its sale. It is quite simply torture in a tin. There is nothing humane about mechanically inducing disease in a bird.

“This is an incredible victory for Viva!, our supporters and anyone who cares about the welfare of animals. Amazon should be congratulated for taking an ethical lead by delisting foie-gras in the UK, but we hope that ethical stance is expanded worldwide. This is a perfect example that consumer pressure does work, even with corporate giants such as Amazon. We will be extending our campaign to other online retailers, such as Ebay. We must not lose sight of the fact that foie-gras is a peculiarly unBritish cruelty. It would be illegal to produce in Britain and causes untold suffering to millions of birds every year in France and other countries that produce it.

“It also has to beggar the question why does the Government continue to refuse to ban the  importation of foie-gras into Britain? It makes a mockery of our sovereign animal welfare laws.”

For more information about Viva!’s campaign against foie-gras, visit www.viva.org.uk/foiegras  or call 0117 944 1000.

 

ENDS information: 

For more information about this media release, call Justin Kerswell on 0117 944 1000 or email justin@viva.org.uk.

Notes to Editors

Viva! sent Christopher North, Managing Director of Amazon in the UK, a petition signed by over 10,000 people threatening to withhold custom from Amazon if they continued to sell foie-gras. Thousands more Viva! initiated emails and postcards were sent to the company throughout 2013. Viva! also held an online Day of Action encouraging consumers to contact Amazon en masse on Saturday 9 March, 2013. More details at www.viva.org.uk/amazon

* Previously, on the UK Amazon Marketplace grocery section there were over a hundred products available to buy containing foie-gras. Amazon sold foie-gras themselves and allowed third-part companies to do so, too. Amazon currently prohibit the sale of animal products containing whale or dolphin on their Marketplace. They have now added foie-gras to that list:

“Animal products: Parts or products from whale, dolphin, shark, elephant (including elephant ivory) or from any other regulated endangered plant or animal are prohibited, as are products containing Foie Gras.”

** Viva! is working in association with French group Stop Gavage/L214 to expose the true face of foie-gras production in France – where the vast majority is still produced.

recent investigation at a farm belonging to a producer (Labeyrie), whose products were on sale on Amazon, showed distressing scenes of ducks being force-fed huge amounts of grain with pneumatic pumps.

These birds are in group cages – which are theoretically a welfare improvement over individual cages used by most foie-gras producers for ducks in France. However, to incapacitate them and prevent them from avoiding being force-fed, an automatic bar pins the ducks to the floor of the cage.

Ducks can bruise easily, and it is feared that this new system will add to the suffering of France’s 38-40 million birds force-fed annually.

Farming minister David Heath has recently suggested consumers boycott foie-gras, 15 December 2012 http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Somerset-MP-David-Heath-says-avoid-foie-gras/story-17594685-detail/story.html. Viva! has written to David Heath to point out potential loopholes in trade rules which mean Britain could ban the importation of foie-gras.  

Foie-gras is typically produced by force feeding ducks or geese such large amounts of food that their livers swell to up to ten times normal size. A pipe is shoved down the bird’s oesophagus and food is pumped into the stomach. The process is repeated two or three times daily for two to three weeks until the birds develop fatty liver disease. Over 97 per cent of birds used in foie-gras production in France are ducks, most of which are tightly caged during force-feeding.

Around 38 million birds are killed for foie-gras each year in France, with around a million dying during the force-feeding process. In France only male ducklings are used – females, who do not put on weight as quickly as males are typically destroyed at a day or two old, often by being dropped into electric mincers. In Spain, some birds raised for foie-gras are killed without stunning as it is believed it makes the foie-gras taste ‘better’. Some foie-gras birds in Hungary raised for foie-gras production suffer painful live plucking of their feathers for the down industry, before being force-fed and slaughtered. Britain is a major importer of foie-gras. More information here: http://viva.org.uk/campaigns/foiegras/factsheet.html

Viva! has printed around half a million anti-foie-gras leaflets in the past five years, which have been distributed across the UK. The group has persuaded supermarket chain Lidl and wholesalers Makro to remove foie-gras from sale. House of Fraser also bowed to public pressure and is now completely foie-gras free while many independent restaurants across the UK have permanently removed the product from sale. In 2004, Viva! successfully campaigned in California for legislation outlawing the production and sale of foie-gras – which came into effect in 2012.