Duck, duck, goose: Survey reveals UK consumers don't want EU foie gras after Brexit

UK - 67 percent agree that food produced using methods prohibited in the UK should not be allowed into the country
calendar icon 21 December 2018
clock icon 4 minute read

As festive foie gras fills the supermarket shelves, a new poll from the RSPCA reveals two thirds of people want a post-Brexit ban on the import of animal products that are illegal to produce in the UK.

Traditional foie gras is made from the livers of ducks or geese that have been force-fed, a practice considered cruel by the RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations, and our laws already prohibit it from being produced here.

But Brits are concerned that products like foie gras, and eggs from hens kept in barren battery cages, which were banned in the UK in 2012, still make their way into our supermarkets, restaurants and delicatessens.

Other products like chlorinated chicken and hormone-boosted beef are currently banned from being produced and imported by the EU but there are fears Brexit could open the door to them too.

The poll, carried out by YouGov, showed 67 percent of the public want these sorts of products banned from being brought into the country. The move could also be great news for British farmers to ensure that their products are not undercut by lower-welfare imports from abroad.

David Bowles, head of Public Affairs said “Our YouGov research shows that most people want imports of lower-welfare food such as foie gras to be outlawed. If the method of making a product is so unacceptable that producing it here is banned, then surely importing that product from another country should be illegal too.

“Ensuring animal products that are imported to the UK at least meet our minimum welfare standards must be a priority not just for animal welfare reasons but also to protect the integrity of UK food and the commercial viability of UK farming. As the EFRA report issued last week concluded, the government must insist on maintaining our higher standards when negotiating new trade agreements so that farmers here are not undercut by cheap, lower-welfare imports.

“Brexit offers a great opportunity for the UK to strengthen its animal welfare standards. The UK has already forged ahead by banning the production of lower-welfare products such as eggs from hens kept in barren battery cages. Now is the chance to ban them being imported too.”

Although foie gras has never been produced in the UK on cruelty grounds, around 180 to 200 tonnes are imported from mainland Europe each year. Sow stalls, which do not allow a pig to turn around or move, were banned in the UK in 1999 but are still used in major pig producing countries such as USA and Australia.

Veal calves reared in, for example, Holland can be kept in conditions which would be illegal in the UK although such veal is currently allowed to be imported.

Growth promoting hormones used to produce beef, and chicken meat washed with chlorine, are practices currently banned in the EU but some have said Brexit offers opportunities to import these products at a lower cost to the consumer.

Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

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