Revision of the EU animal welfare legislation: Euro Foie Gras recalls its commitment to high standards

Euro Foie Gras contributed to the European Commission public consultation on the inception impact assessment related to the revision of the EU animal welfare legislation. The Federation recalls that foie gras is produced in full compliance with EU animal welfare standards. Furthermore, the sector follows the latest scientific data and on-farm testing to ensure a constant improvement of the breeding conditions.

Foie gras is a European traditional gastronomic and high-quality product respecting high standards of animal welfare.

The European foie gras sector responds to societal expectations: the production is extensive, outdoor, and very often family based. With 90% of the life of the animal spent outdoors, open air is a fundamental characteristic of the breeding of foie gras palmipeds.

Fat palmipeds remain in outdoor areas during 10 to 15 weeks, depending on the species, until the fattening phase. It is only during that phase that they live in collective housing and only for a limited period of time (between 9 and 12 days for ducks and 12 to 15 days for geese). This housing system meets all the requirements of the Council of Europe’s Recommendation of 22 June 1999 since it allows the animals to stand with a normal posture, flap their wings, turn around without difficulty and perform normal social interactions. The shift from the use of individual cages for the production of foie gras to collective housing, required by the above-mentioned Recommendation, represented a significant investment of more than 120 million euros for the European breeders.

Moreover, Euro Foie Gras underlined its commitment to a process of constant improvement in breeding practices by using the most up-to-date scientific data and on-farm testing. In this respect, the Federation recalled that the 1998 SCAHAW report on the welfare aspects of ducks and geese in foie gras production had a limited methodology and highly questionable recommendations. Therefore, after more than twenty years, this report cannot be cited as a reference on the welfare of fat palmipeds.

The Federation also stressed that any additional requirements on the housing systems would need to be scientifically assessed taking into account the specificities of each species and the different production stage. It is also crucial to define what a cage is, as a starting point. Furthermore, if additional EU standards are imposed on European farmers, they will have to be financially supported and a sufficient transition period will have to be adopted. Euro Foie Gras alerted that if stricter animal welfare rules were adopted while continuing to allow imports that do not meet the same standards to enter, this would inevitably harm the competitiveness of the European livestock sector which would face unfair competition from third countries. Therefore, concrete guarantees in line with WTO rules are needed to ensure a level playing field for European livestock farmers.