First came Twiggy, then Joanna Lumley, Dame Vera Lynn, Pamela Anderson, and Brigitte Bardot, and now me. With what amounts to a bevy of famous women speaking out for the majority of Britons who want to see a ban on the sale of foie gras, Fortnum & Mason is running out of excuses to profit from the bloated livers of force-fed geese.
As someone who has lived in London for a number of years, I know that Fortnum & Mason strives to be the quintessential British department store. But there is nothing British about ramming a tube down the throats of geese and filling their stomachs with mush. That's why foie gras production is illegal in the UK and more than a dozen other countries and also why Fortnum goes to French farms to stock its shelves. I have watched the undercover video footage that PETA UK shot on these farms, and it's enough to put anyone off their tea and biscuits. Geese raised for the store's foie gras spend their final weeks in cramped pens that reek of the fumes from the waste that accumulates beneath the metal grates on which they're forced to stand. Knowing what it means when the worker with the force-feeding pipe approaches, the terrified geese try desperately to escape, but they have nowhere to go and are too sick and weak to get very far anyway. Some birds are so ill that they can't even stand up - but the workers still mercilessly pump more mush down their throats.
Force-feeding causes the birds' livers to balloon to up to 10 times their normal size and become diseased with what is known as "hepatic steatosis". In addition to being miserably ill with a painful and debilitating disease, the geese can barely breathe because their grotesquely enlarged livers displace their lungs and other internal organs. In PETA's video, geese can be seen panting constantly in a vain attempt to suck oxygen into their squashed lungs. Veterinarian Holly Cheever has compared what force-fed birds endure in their final days to being smothered.
At the abattoir which Fortnum's foie gras suppliers use, the geese are slaughtered by being plunged upside down into 'killing funnels'. The birds are supposed to be stunned before their throats are cut, but PETA's investigator documented a worker who skipped the stunning step as soon as a supervisor wasn't looking. Instead, he simply stabbed the birds in the throat, which is illegal in both France and the UK. Video footage shows obviously conscious geese blinking, gasping, kicking and trying to lift their heads.
All this misery occurs just so that some self-proclaimed 'foodies' can toss a slab of greasy toxin-infused offal onto their toast. Personally, I wouldn't touch the stuff with a 10-foot force-feeding tube. I much prefer the 'faux gras' I sampled recently, which was created by former Manna chef Sean Paul Redding, a magical concoction that includes truffle oil, wild mushrooms, chickpeas and beetroot - but not so much as an ounce of animal abuse. Sean Paul's decadent creation would be at home at even the poshest gathering, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it served at Clarence House since Prince Charles refuses to allow real foie gras to be served at any of his functions.
In addition to Prince Charles, the BAFTAs, the BRIT Awards, Wimbledon, Lord's Cricket Ground and both Houses of Parliament refuse to serve foie gras, and Harvey Nichols and Selfridges refuse to sell it. Numerous animal-protection groups, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Compassion in World Farming, Animal Defenders International, Animal Aid, Viva!, Four Paws, OneKind, Save Me and the International Veterinary Society, have joined PETA in calling on Fortnum & Mason to stop selling foie gras.