Published on: 22 Feb 2016

Valentine's Day is traditionally associated with Hallmark cards, expensive roses and last minute attempts to make restaurant reservations. Diners expect the very best, most romantic evening a modest wallet can afford—and chefs are only too happy to oblige. However, one pub in Norfolk found out that romance dies hard in the face of anonymous phone calls and death threats. Why were the owners and staff of the Kings Arms at Fleggburgh targeted? Because of foie gras.

Foie grasFoie gras (literally 'fat liver' in French) is made from goose or duck liver, similar to pâté. However, it is produced using a force-feeding technique called 'gavage'. Geese and ducks are force fed corn via a feeding tube several times a day, resulting in livers that are up to ten times the normal size. In France, it is illegal to label a foodstuff as 'foie gras' if gavage has not been used. The process makes foie gras quite delicious and a delicacy France is proud of. It is still the largest consumer of the foodstuff, despite exporting it to many other countries.

The intensive and cruel production of foie gras is the reason behind the 'vegan activists' targeting the Kings Arms with death threats. France claims it is a part of their culture and history—there is little movement within the country to ban foie gras (although some stores do refuse to stock it or sell it). Internationally though there is some popular concern surrounding gavage and a large number of countries have prohibited the practice altogether. Few have banned the import of foie gras and it is still relatively easy to acquire—although several major retailers including German discounters Lidl have ceased selling it due to public pressure.

VealFoie gras isn't the only food to be produced using what some would label as 'cruel' methods. The other obvious example is that of veal, a type of meat made from calves. Veal is described as being so tender it is almost velvet-like in texture, achieved through the practice of 'crating'. The calf lives its entire (short) life inside, its movement restricted to prevent it from building muscle tone. Often various hormones and antibiotics are used to lower calf mortality too, and a calf can literally spend its whole existence without seeing sunlight. There has been a concerted move to make veal production more humane, however, with the introduction of 'free-range' veal. In this instance, the calf is not separated from its mother and is able to feed naturally. Activists would like foie gras producers to make a similar level of change.

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