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Bird flu outbreak hits French foie gras industry

By Eric DuVall
Bird flu outbreak hits French foie gras industry
Geese are kept in stalls after farmers were ordered to keep the animals inside in the wake of an outbreak of avian flu in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. A dangerous variant of the bird flu, H5N8, has been reported across Europe and this week led the French government to order the culling of as many as 1 million ducks and geese in the heart of the nation's foie gras-producing region. Photo by Roland Weirauch/European Pressphoto Agency

PARIS, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Agriculture officials in France have ordered the culling of potentially 1 million ducks and geese in response to a dangerous epidemic of the bird flu, dealing a major blow to the nation's foie gras producers.

The order affects three regions in southern France, the largest area for foie gras production in the country.

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The controversial delicacy, a staple of French cuisine, is made from the fatty livers of force-fed ducks and geese. Animal rights groups have long opposed the practice.

The outbreak of H5N8 influenza has been reported across Europe this winter. Unlike other strains of the bird flu, H5N8 has not been found in humans and cannot be transmitted by eating infected fowl. Still, the outbreak could be disastrous for France's bird population if not controlled, officials warned.

The cull is expected to last until Jan. 20. It is the 89th bird flu outbreak in France in the last year, officials said.

The Guardian reported a similar outbreak in France in 2015 caused a 25 percent drop in foie gras production, a loss of more than $528 million.

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