Pamela Anderson causes stir in French parliament over foie gras

PARIS (Reuters) - Former Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson triggered scenes of chaos in France’s parliament on Tuesday as journalists fought and shoved to hear her campaign for a ban on the force-feeding of ducks and geese for foie gras.

A photographer and a cameraman came to blows as those in the media scrum struggled to get shots of Anderson at a news conference. Some 25 other journalists were left stuck outside for want of sufficient space for them in the room.

The Canadian-born star was campaigning for a bill tabled by an environmentalist lawmaker, undeterred that it has little hope of passing in the absence of support from virtually all other members of parliament.

“As a Canadian, I am ashamed by the brutal clubbing of baby seals and thus I have empathy for many of the French citizens who also experience both shame and sadness at the misery suffered by these very sociable birds,” Anderson said.

Foie gras is made from geese and duck livers which have been fattened, usually by force feeding. Sold whole or as a pate, it is considered a gourmet food in both Western and Asian cuisine, but the practice of force-feeding has often been criticized as cruel by animal activists.

California banned its manufacture and sale in 2012. A federal judge has blocked the ban on sales but the state appealed the ruling.

Anderson’s appearance at the French parliament comes as the sector struggles with a production freeze due to the spread of bird flu in southwestern France, by far the biggest producing region. The industry says the measure will cost them as much as 350 million euros.

“We understand that some people don’t want to eat foie gras but they should not keep foie gras lovers from eating it,” Marie-Pierre Pe, an official with the Cifog foie gras producers association said.

France produces nearly 20,000 tonnes (22,000 tons) of foie gras per year. Its main export markets include Japan, Spain and Belgium. About 30,000 families in France depend on the sector for a living, according to the Cifog.

Reporting by Emile Picy, Pauline Ades-Mevel and Sybille de la Hamaide, writing by Leigh Thomas; editing by Ralph Boulton