I understand that some research has been done in France to investigate the function of the hypothalamus in controlling the appetite of the goose. So far as I know, this work has not resulted in the development of a production method for pâté de foie gras of the kind to which my hon. Friend refers. The question of a ban on imports of pâté produced by such methods does not, therefore, arise.
Whilst I am sorry to deprive some diners of their pleasure, is it not a fact that gavage, the system used in France, means cramming with an electric machine which forces the food through the beak of the strapped goose, and that this is done not only in preparation for winter, when the goose is feeding up, but throughout the year? Why do we condone that and import from France pâté made by a system which we would not tolerate here?
My hon. Friend is right to say that the gavage method is used. It involves a tube being inserted in the goose's beak. We understand my hon. Friend's views. We have always believed that any cruelty to animals in this country is the responsibility of the British Government. We support my hon. Friend's objectives, but we believe that the best way to reduce cruelty in other countries is through international agreement.
I think that what my hon. Friend says is substantially true. Pâté de foie gras is not eaten in large quantities by a substantial section of the British population. I say quite seriously that the attention that hon. Members are drawing to this matter might lead some people to modify their eating habits.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I raised exactly the same question some years ago with the same result that has been obtained by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun)? Is it not time that we took this matter a little more seriously? Although we have no responsibility for the treatment of animals in other countries, at least we can make our views very strongly felt by banning the import of pâté de foie gras to this country.
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. We must take all these matters seriously. There is a large body of opinion in this country—it is reflected in correspondence to hon. Members—which feels strongly about animal welfare However, we must also consider other matters. If we were to adopt a policy of banning imports on the ground of cruelty, such a ban might apply to certain forms of meat production.