YORK-based animal welfare campaigners are celebrating a major victory in their attempts to stop the sale of French delicacy foie gras.

Leading national retailer Harvey Nichols, which has a branch in Leeds, has decided to stop selling the food, which is made from the fattened liver of force-fed geese and ducks.

A spokeswoman for the chain said: "We reviewed the foie gras policy in the food market and it's been a commercial decision to stop buying foie gras."

Today, animal welfare activists and a York councillor involved in the campaign to stop the dish's sale hailed the decision.

Paul Blanchard, a councillor for Heworth, tabled a motion to City of York Council earlier this year, calling on the city to take action to stop foie gras being sold in its shops and restaurants.

Today, he said: "I am absolutely delighted that Harvey Nichols are taking this decision. They are in good company - Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer and the Co-op already refuse to stock foie gras for ethical reasons. The list is growing all the time.

"The fact they say sales are dropping I think is indicative of the fact that the British public is going to go foie gras-free.

"Foie gras is banned from being produced in the UK, but many shops and restaurants import and sell it, which is not prohibited, particularly during the festive period.

"Consequently, birds elsewhere in the world are suffering to satisfy UK demand for foie gras. A ban on the sale of foie gras in the UK would significantly reduce bird suffering."

Justin Kerswell, campaigns manager of activist group Viva!, said: "We welcome Harvey Nichols' ethical decision to not to sell foie gras - it just shows that you can have luxury without cruelty.

"Declining sales of foie-gras also show that the British are rejecting this cruel delicacy' in droves. We ask consumers everywhere to give foie gras the elbow."

Viva! had been planning to target Harvey Nichols during the peak Christmas shopping period, with vociferous demonstrations outside their stores.

Protests have already been held outside the Manchester and Bristol branches. They had informed the firm of their plans.