Japan store pulls foie gras lunchbox over animal rights

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese convenience store chain has cancelled the launch of its foie gras lunchbox after customer complaints about animal welfare, a company spokesman said on Thursday.

FamilyMart had intended to begin selling the lunchbox containing a meat patty and some foie gras paste for 690 yen (S$8.60), but shelved the plan after more than 20 people registered concerns over the way the traditional French delicacy is produced.

Animal rights campaigners object to foie gras because it involves the forced feeding of birds to engorge their liver, a process activists say is painful for the creatures.

"We understand foie gras is a common food stuff in Japan," a FamilyMart spokesman said. However, the launch was cancelled after "carefully considering opinions from customers, different views abroad on foie gras and the production process of foie gras itself."

He added: "We don't intend to make anyone feel uncomfortable." The chain, which has around 10,000 stores nationwide, had received 22 complaints since it announced the lunchbox on January 10, the company said.

Animal rights activism remains a fringe interest in Japan, largely a nation of omnivore gourmands.

The lunchbox issue came amid an international furore over the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, western Japan, which sees hundreds of the mammals herded into a cove either to be sold to aquariums or butchered for meat.

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