Foie gras abuse prompts publicans to create a support group

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Law abiding: foie gras is illegal to produce in the UK but legal to import and sell
Law abiding: foie gras is illegal to produce in the UK but legal to import and sell

Related tags: Foie gras

Two licensees have vowed to set up a support group for the hospitality trade after animal rights activists posted thousands of fake reviews and “abuse” on their Facebook page because the pub serves foie gras.

David and Samatha McHattie, owners of the Bridge Inn in Calver, Derbyshire, have said they will “stand up to bullies” after the activists bombarded their site with false one-star reviews on its Facebook Page.

Samantha has been called “evil” and a “terrorist” who will “go to hell” for putting the item on the menu, she said.

Foie gras – fatty goose or duck liver – is illegal to produce in this country because it involves controversially force-feeding the birds. However, it is legal to import and sell it in the UK.

Instead of bowing to the activists’ demands, the couple have decided to create a support organisation called ‘Hospitality Stands’. They hope the group will provide a resource and support for people in hospitality who have suffered the same type of treatment.

Samantha said: “At first, we tried to engage, explaining how foie gras has changed, and all we got back was abuse. The more it went viral, the more people supported us. Supporters in return then received abuse.”

Review system is a mockery

“A lot of people do roll over,” added David. “I understand that, but as a business operator I believe this just makes a mockery of our whole review system. People who have never been to a pub, but aren’t happy with what you do, can just drag your business through the dirt and abuse individuals.”

Another aim of Hospitality Stands will be to get as many operators as possible to look into the reviewing system on social media and engage with activists.

Samantha said: “We will be much stronger if we stand together, and I don’t want to see this happen to anyone else. It is horrible. Seeing what’s happened here, we need a voice, and there are so many of us, we are a strong voice.”

David added: “The activists have their passions and their enthusiasm, and that’s laudable, but the way they go about it with pubs and restaurants is definitely not. People in hospitality need to stand together, and if we can provide a resource, or support to help defend people in our industry then that's great.”

The couple said that if other licensees find themselves in a similar situation they would advise them to “first of all take a deep breath”, and consider what is best for them personally and for their business.

Personal toll

They said: “If you are going to stand up, and not take something off a menu, just think carefully about it, because it’s a big commitment. It’s not a nice thing, it’s very stressful. It takes a toll on you personally.”

The couple added that any decision licensees make “depends on your business, where it is, and the feelings of your local community”.

“We are very lucky, we are a community pub in a farming area. It wold not be so easy perhaps if we were a pub in the city, reliant on the tourist trade,” they added.

They said they were “not naïve” to the risks of refusing to take the dish off the menu, but confirmed it has had no negative effect. In fact, they believe it is better due to the support of the community.

The couple have thanked everyone in the hospitality community who has supported them.

The date for the support group launch is still to be confirmed.

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