For many Europeans foie gras is closely linked with Christmas and other festive occasions. In the “European Capital” of Brussels, it can even be found on sale in low-cost supermarkets, when Christmas is approaching.
For others however, including it on the menu – let alone serving it – is a major faux pas. The Animal Rights organisation PETA once called it a Delicacy of Despair and numerous campaigns have been launched against it. In much of Europe animal rights campaigners are united in their view that the classical way of producing foie gras is animal cruelty.
So what might happen, if it appears on the menu in the European Parliament?
The Christmas menu
That is a question we do not need to try and guess the answer to, because it already happened. On Wednesday (December 3rd) this week, the fatty liver appeared on the Christmas menu in one of the restaurants (in the JAN building) in the European Parliament’s complex in Brussels.
While it undoubtedly made some MEPs and staff members look forward to lunch, for others it seems it rather took the appetite away. And they didn’t want to let it stay with just that, instead they wanted action.
The action came in the form of an email sent to Parliament’s president Martin Schulz – with all the MEPs and assistants in cc – urging him to not only remove foie gras from the Wednesday menu, but to ban it permanently.
Behind the email was British Green MEP Keith Taylor (who is also one of the vice-chairs of the Animal Welfare intergroup). We are not going to bring the entire email here, just the beginning and the end of it – but that should also be enough for you to get a clear idea about it:
Dear President Schulz,
I’m emailing you in my capacity as Vice-Chair of the Parliament’s animal welfare intergroup because I’ve learned that today the Jan Restaurant will be serving MEPs a Christmas meal featuring foie gras.
I ask you, as president of the European Parliament, to make the compassionate and rational decision to ensure that foie gras is removed from the Christmas menu.
We can celebrate Christmas and good will to all without abusing animals. Please, will you remove foie gras from the EU Parliament Christmas menu and ban it from the Parliament for good?
The mail – that also contained references to EU-documents as well as a link to a video was immediately welcomed by some other MEPs, including another Vice-Chair of the Animal Welfare intergroup, Maltese S&D member Marlene Mizzi.
Lots of support?
In fact one by one several mails arrived in the mailboxes of MEPs and assistant, with several more MEPs declaring to whoever would listen, that they agreed with Mr. Taylor’s request.
Some of those were Dutch GUE MEPs Anja Hazekamp and Anne-Marie Mineur, Slovenian ALDE MEP Ivo Vajgl and Danish Green Margrete Auken. Not really names that are a big surprise to find backing Mr Taylor.
What was maybe more surprising was Austrian FPÖ MEP Georg Mayer, who sent a mail saying that he did not agree with removing the item from the menu, as well as writing:
And I don’t want to know who does!! Please be so kind and respect that!
France’s Mireille D’Ornano (from Front national) also objected to the objection, writing:
I would like to hear more Greens defending animals slaughtered according rituals for halal meat.
And so, once again the wheels of the European Parliament’s reply-to-all mail machinery are turning. Opinions and heated words are exchanged – but it often never makes it outside the walls of Parliament, or manages to change things. Or as one rather cynical ex-EP staffer put it: If a MEP shouts in parliament, but no journalists are around to report on it, did it ever really happen?
To our knowledge (and as we are writing this) Martin Schulz has not replied to the mails – but if anybody knows of any official reaction, we will be happy to hear of it.
Bonus: Not the first nor the last time
That foie gras is being served in the European Parliament is nothing new, as seasoned reception-goers and EP-staff members (current as well as former) can attest to.
In the previous legislature there was even a foie gras tasting lasting several days, where curious visitors not only were treated to various bits of foie gras (if they got there before they ran out of it, that is), they also received recipes for various ways of serving and preparing the controversial delicacy.
Although we don’t normally occupy ourselves with fortune telling, we dare to predict that Wednesday’s Christmas menu inclusion of foie gras will not be the last time that it is served on Parliament premises.
Nor will it be the last time that critique and calls for it to be banned everywhere will be voiced in the EP.