The Tel Aviv Museum of Art announced Wednesday that it would consider taking foie gras off the menu in the restaurant of the museum's new wing, in response to pressure from animal rights activists.
Foie gras is produced from the liver of deliberately fattened - force-fed - water fowl. Many birds die during the feeding period and others suffer injuries, cannot walk, and have difficulty breathing due to the heavy pressure of the enlarged liver on the lungs, explains the Anonymous for Animal Rights group. Some have their esophages torn by the force-feeding process.
The group protested the selling of foie gras at the museum on its Facebook page. "Goose fattening – not in my museum!" it wrote. "In the restaurant opened lately in the heart of the Tel Aviv Museum, designed as an integral part of the new wing, the products of extreme abuse of animals are being sold, a kind of abuse that has been banned and condemned in dozens of countries around the world, including Israel: fattened liver." In a letter to the museum's management, attorney Yossi Wolfson of Let the Animals Live and Hagai Cohen of Anonymous wrote that "By serving the product of these acts of torture, the Tel Aviv Museum collaborates with extreme and illegal abuse of helpless animals. Continuing to serve these products will make the museum the enemy of the seekers of justice and compassion, and turn it into a symbol of detached and nihilistic callousness."
Following the protests the museum announced on its Facebook page that "we are investigating the issue of the foie gras served at the Museum's 'Pastel' restaurant. The investigation will be completed within about two weeks, and until then the foie gras dish will be removed from the menu."
A decade ago, following a ruling of the High Court of Justice, the state prohibited force feeding fowl in Israel. Yet the law does not prohibit importing fattened liver from other countries and marketing it in Israel. In recent months the Knesset has debated a bill by MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) which would prohibit the sale of fattened liver in Israel. The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved the bill, but Minister of Agriculture Yair Shamir and Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch from Yisrael Beiteinu appealed the decision and delayed the bill.
They agreed to withdraw the appeal in exchange for a change in the bill's wording – prohibiting the sale of fattened liver, rather than prohibiting its import. This means that fattened liver can still be imported privately to Israel, but not sold in restaurants or any other business. The bill was approved in this format by a large majority in the preliminary reading, but following pressure from Yisrael Beiteinu, the coalition leaders decided to send it back for discussion at the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. The discussion is set to take place during the Knesset's next session.