Knesset gives initial okay to ban on foie gras sales

Measure would prohibit sale, trade of goose liver delicacy, considered by many to be a product of animal cruelty; Israel was once third-largest producer

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

A French farmer force feeds a goose as part of the production of foie gras (photo credit: CC BY, Jerome S, Wikimedia Commons)
A French farmer force feeds a goose as part of the production of foie gras (photo credit: CC BY, Jerome S, Wikimedia Commons)

Israel took a major step on Wednesday toward stiffening the ban on foie gras in the country, as the preliminary reading of a bill outlawing the trade and sale of the delicacy passed the Knesset by a wide margin.

MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), an orthodox rabbi serving in his first term in parliament, sponsored the legislation, which passed 59-10.

“I am proud to be a member in a Knesset that chose to place values before interests and fleeting pleasures,” said Lipman in a statement. “As a public official I have many responsibilities, one of them being to care for the rights of animals that depend entirely on us and can’t care for themselves. I believe that this law will contribute not only to animals but also to Israel’s global image. The time has come to get this soul-corrupting food out of Israel.”

Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened by force feeding. The controversial practice is prohibited in many European countries, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, and the United Kingdom, but the import and sale of foie gras is legal in these countries.

Producers argue that the process does not harm the birds, and France’s 2006 Rural Code calls foie gras “part of the protected cultural and gastronomic heritage of France.”

The Knesset bill originally banned the import of foie gras, even for personal consumption, but a protest by Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir (Yisrael Beytenu) led to the removal of that clause.

Most of the measure’s opposition came from the ultra-Orthodox parties, despite a ruling by Shas spiritual head Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that the production of foie gras violates the Jewish prohibition on animal cruelty.

Lipman’s statement also underscored the idea that European Jewish organizations support the law, in part because animal cruelty measures in Israel will help their fight to preserve kosher ritual slaughter in Europe.

Israel was the third-largest foie gras producer in the world, after France and Hungary, until a 2003 Supreme Court decision banned the production of the delicacy by current force-feeding methods. Many farmers continued the practice, and in 2006 the Court ordered the state to enforce the ban.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed