From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2012: (Actually published on November 1, 2012.)
BEIJING, LONDON–A plan to build the world’s largest waterfowl farm and foie gras factory in Jiangxi province, China, appears to have been scuttled by global cooperation among animal advocates. “China’s Central People’s Broadcasting Station, quoting a local official, confirmed an end to the planned project,” Humane Society International China policy specialist Peter Li told ANIMAL PEOPLE on October 5, 2012. The Chinese state radio network report affirmed months of rumors that a project suspension announced in April 2012 would be made permanent. “The proposed foie gras production facility, set to receive a 100 million yuan investment by Creek Projects, was designed to produce 1,000 tons of foie gras by slaughtering 800 million ducks and two million geese each year,” Li continued. “Foie gras– meaning ‘large liver’–is considered a delicacy by some,” Li explained. “Making foie gras typically involves force-feeding ducks and geese by placing a long pipe down their throat and pumping large quantities of food directly into their stomachs, several times a day, until their livers become diseased and enlarged up to 10 times their normal size.”
. Waterfowl have been raised for slaughter in China for millennia. The force-feeding technique was developed in Egypt circa 5,000 years ago. Foie gras production does not appear to have been done in China, however, at least in modern times, until 2006, when about 500 tons were produced. Chinese foie gras production doubled by 2011, to about 1,000 tons, compared to about 20,000 tons per year produced in France, the world leader in both production and consumption.
. A subsidiary of the French foie gras maker Euralis in 2008 bought a duck farm in Yangquing, near Beijing. “The new venture will initially produce only 25 tons of foie gras from ducks fed by local Chinese under the supervision of French staff,” reported Times of London correspondent Carl Mortished. “Euralis has chosen to produce foie gras from ducks, rather than geese, because of the Chinese preference for duck meat,” Mortished continued. “Euralis, based in southwest France, is the biggest producer of foie gras. The delicacy generates £304 million [about $486 milllion U.S.] per year in revenue for the company,” Mortished added.
. The money appears to have piqued Creek Project Investments’ interest. Established in 2006 to invest in a variety of industries with upscale associations, also including gold and diamond minining, Creek Project Investments in early 2012 announced that it had “entered into a venture in China to exploit the growing demand for products derived from geese, including foie gras. To date,” the Creek Project Investments web site asserted, “20 million yuan have been invested into this project on a profit-sharing basis with local farmers. Growth in demand within China has given the directors confidence that demand will continue to outstrip supply.
. “Over 200 hectares of land have been set aside,” Creek Project Investments continued. “The potential is to create a gross income of 500 million yuan,” worth about $48 million in U.S. currency, “within seven years.”
. The scheme had already been in development for at least three years, according to the Creek Projects prospectus. “The geese project is the major activity of the company, centered on an area referred to as the Komsomolsk Lake Waterfowl Industry Xingda waterfowl processing project,” the prospectus said. “In 2009 the State Council officially approved Poyang Lake Ecological Economic Zone PlanningŠas part of a national strategy,” the prospectus continued. “Poyang Lake, a member of the World Living Lakes Network, is a wetland of international importance,” said to be “Asia’s largest wintering habitat for migratory birds.”
. Contending that foie gras production would be ecologically compatible with protecting Poyang Lake, though much smaller commercial waterfowl breeding facilities are alleged to have seriously polluted lakes around the world, Creek Projects in August 2010 produced a feasibility study. “After completion of the project,” the study suggested, “it is expected to achieve annual sales income of 899.4 million yuan ($56 million U.S.), with a total profit (on overage) of 102 million yuan ($6 million U.S.). Creek Projects has so far contracted for the delivery of 15 million geese over a five-year period,” the prospectus declared. “As of December 2011, approximately three million geese have been delivered.”
. Word of the foie gras production scheme appears to have reached the Chinese public on March 2, 2012, through a report by Song Fuli and Li Yuanyuan of the Economic Observer Online, translated into English and published by Laura Lin of the China News Center on March 13, 2012. .
______________________ Green Beagle sniffed it out ______________________ “This news released last week did not come from the company,” the report stipulated, “but by way of the Darwin Natural Knowledge Society, a Beijing-based nonprofit focused on environmental protection.” The emblem of the organization is a green drawing of the ship, The Beagle, for which Charles Darwin was naturalist while formulating the ideas he published in The Origin of Species (1859). From the drawing, the organization has become better known as Green Beagle.
“Under strong condemnation from animal protection groups, the European Union has planned to stop, from 2019 onward, the production of this traditional cuisine,” Song Fuli and Li Yuanyuan wrote. “Currently, Hungary, which used to be the second-biggest producer, has gradually decreased its output. Israel, another major producer in the past, has also discontinued its production. And so it is not altogether surprising that production is shifting eastward to China.
. “In international trade, lack of respect of animals’ welfare could create barriers and damage a country’s image,” warned China Animal Protection Reporters Salon cofounder Dan Zhang.
. Song Fuli and Li Yuanyuan also quoted criticisms of foie gras from Zhou Zunguo, China spokesperson for Compassion In World Farming. On April 4, 2012, “Creek Project Investments’ directors announced a suspension of current operations in their foie gras operation, pending a full review of issues concerning animal welfare,” said the company web site. Creek Project Investments said that the review would take about two months.
. Supporting the campaign underway within China, Compassion In World Farming and Humane Society International in June 2012 delivered “a petition letter to the provincial leaders of Jianxi Province in China,” Peter Li of HSI recounted. Co-signers included Animal Guardians, Animal People, the Animals Asia Foundation, ACRES (of Singapore), ActAsia for Animals, International Animal Rescue, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Royal SPCA of Britain, the Hong Kong SPCA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and the Humane Society of the U.S.
. The message was also delivered to the Chinese embassy in London and perhaps most influentially, the Creek Projects Investments office in Huntingdon, U.K., “whilst in China campaigners from Green Beagle and CIWF held media events and lobbied local officials,” summarized the Animals Asia Foundation.
. Warned HSI United Kingdom director Mark Jones, “Forced feeding of birds for foie gras production is illegal in our own country, and the British public will not tolerate investments in such cruel practices by British companies overseas.”
. Early exposure of the Creek Projects Investments foie gras scheme coincided with news coverage, which may have come to the Creek Projects directors’ attention, of a March 15, 2012 raid by the National SPCA of South Africa on the Bon Canard foie gras farm in North West Province. The NSPCA impounded 110 Muscovy ducks who “were being kept in a forward position with just their neck protruding out of a small opening in their cage,” NSPCA farm animal unit inspector Grace de Lange told media. “A few thousand ducks are still on the farm in large communal pens and the NSPCA continues to monitor the situation,” de Lange added.
. A multinational land investment firm called Creek Projects Ltd., appearing to be related to Creek Projects Investments, has offices in South Africa, Angola, Botswana, and Nigeria. Besides the U.K., force-feeding birds to produce foie gras is banned in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, most Austrian provinces, Turkey, and the U.S. state of California.