Pain in the Gras for local sandwich bar

Animal rights protestors have supported the launch of an online petition calling for popular High Street delicatessen Olives’ to cease sale of foie gras.

With 76 signatories as The Oxstu went to press, the petition calls the production of foie gras a “barbaric protest”, and asks the deli to “refrain” from selling and stocking the product.

The protest was launched on last week by Benedict Morrison, a DPhil student at Merton.

The vegetarian commented that he has for some time “avoided buying anything at Olives because of their decision to sell foie gras”.

He called the production of foie gras an “almost uniquely callous and cruel” process.

The controversial delicacy, which is believed to date back as far as the Ancient Egyptians, is the liver of a goose or duck that has been force-fed in order to make its liver large and fatty, a process that can cause serious and painful health problems for the birds.

Morrison stated that he started the he petition on after being “encouraged by friends who agreed that a message should be sent to the managers of the deli”.

Olives, which proudly states that it has been “voted the best sandwich shop in Oxford by the students,” does not seem to have any plans to stop selling its foie gras, imported from around Bergerac in the South of France, any time soon.

Christophe Pierrart, the deli’s owner, commented that Olives had stocked foie gras, and he had cooked with it, since it opened over six years ago, and asked “What’s wrong with foie gras?”

He said, “Lots of people love foie gras, it’s a popular product,” citing the popularity of a ‘baguette of the week’ last year that contained foie gras, and said that “to me, there’s nothing wrong with the way we produce it.”

Pierrart noted that ducks and geese used in foie gras production in the South of France are allowed outdoors and free to roam, comparing it favourably to the treatment of farm animals in Britain that are kept indoors. Morrison also strongly opposes such ill-treatment of indoor hens, and “hasten[s] to stress that [foie gras] is only one such issue” of violation of animal welfare that he feels must be challenged.

However, while Pierrart asks why animal welfare campaigners don’t focus on Tesco and Sainsbury’s sale of products from indoor animals – although the latter no longer sells eggs from caged hens – Morrison believes that a movement of consumers and small businesses like Olives will help start a wider shift in favour of the welfare of farm animals.

Morrison is pleased at what he believes is the “extraordinarily wide field” from which the petition’s signatories have come, and hopes that the number of signatures will rise as word spreads from college to college.

However, he stresses that has no problem with more ethically-produced alternatives to traditional foie gras. Though French law does not consider such alternatives as true ‘foie gras’, and they were rejected by Californian producers in the years leading up to the state’s ban, Morrison argues that opposition to more ethical methods “simply places tradition over compassion”.

Sale of foie gras is illegal in California and was briefly banned in Chicago, while several more countries, including the United Kingdom, ban its production but allow its import and sale. France, however, remains by far the main producer of foie gras, and is protected there by law as “belong[ing] to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France”.

Morrison would like to see the sale of traditionally-produced foie gras banned in the UK too, and argues that though “I am not deluded enough to imagine that persuading Olives not to stock the stuff will end this cruel practice and trade, but I do believe that small victories can pave the way to bigger triumphs”.