After years of leading us down the garden path, reports now suggest that Boris Johnson has removed plans to ban foie gras imports from Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech, after a handful of ministers dug their heels in and deemed the ban to be “fundamentally unconservative”.
The potential U-turn comes after polls just last month revealed that 86 per cent of respondents who expressed an opinion are opposed to the force-feeding of animals, and a further 81 per cent supported a ban on foie gras imports.
Animal Equality’s long-running campaign calling for an import ban has also received cross-party political support, including endorsement from senior Conservative MPs Sir Roger Gale and the late Sir David Amess.
The public supports it. Politicians back it. The animals need it. So why is the government pandering to a handful of ministers, while ignoring the plight of animals and the demands of their own country?
There’s no doubt about it, the UK’s citizens will be sorely disappointed by a U-turn. But it is, ultimately, the hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese who suffer horrific treatment at the hands of the foie gras industry, brutally force-fed until their livers swell to the size of a football, who pay the ultimate price.
Foie gras is an undeniably cruel product, so much so that its production has been banned in the UK for more than two decades. The ban on imports was set to be explored as part of the Animals Abroad Bill, to align our domestic and international legislation. And yet, despite years of hints, it seems the ban is about to be dropped at the final hour.
The reasons for this backtrack are unclear, though it may not come as a surprise to many. Research from Animal Equality shows that just 1 per cent of citizens across Great Britain “trust a great deal” that the government will deliver on its political promises, with 83 per cent of respondents who expressed an opinion stating that they “don’t trust” the government to follow through. The government cannot afford to go back on more promises, especially on a topic that has gained so much public support for years.
Reports suggest that a few cabinet members believe the ban could limit the “personal choice” of the public. Yet this argument weakens when you look at the numbers. More than a quarter of a million people have signed Animal Equality’s petition calling for a ban, and more than three-quarters of the population have supported it in polls conducted since 2018. Limiting personal choice does not seem to be a concern.
To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment, sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here
Other ministers now claim the ban could be “unconservative”. This is interesting timing, given that just days ago veteran Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale released a call for the ban to be implemented urgently and included in the Queen’s Speech. He is supported by several of his Conservative peers, including Sir Mike Penning MP, Sir Peter Bottomley MP and Henry Smith MP. This is not a recent development, either; the foie gras ban has held strong parliamentary support ever since Animal Equality initiated our campaign back in 2017. Again, there seems to be little truth to the speculations of a handful of politicians.
Delaying bans on foie gras and fur in the UK will undoubtedly cause millions more animals to suffer. While the government wastes time wavering, these animals will continue to endure some of the most extreme cruelty that takes place in the farming industry today.
Tuesday will confirm the fate of animal welfare in the UK. If we fail to implement a ban on a product that is recognised as so cruel that it can no longer be produced here, while ignoring the immense public and political support that banning foie gras has gained, we have no right to call ourselves leaders in animal welfare.
Jenny Canham is a campaigner and journalist, working with international animal protection organisation Animal Equality UK to hold the government accountable for its promises on behalf of animals