ANIMAL rights campaigners are set to demonstrate outside York's council headquarters next week, as a motion opposing foie gras goes before councillors.

If they vote as expected, the city will become the first in Britain to formally stand up against the sale and production of the French delicacy, which is made by force-feeding ducks and geese in often barbaric conditions.

The original motion, submitted by Heworth councillor Paul Blanchard, was put before City of York Council on January 25, but voting was deferred until council officers could compile a report on the legal situation and options available.

Coun Blanchard wanted York to emulate Chicago, by passing a total ban on the sale of foie gras in the city, but legal advice to the council is that that is not possible.

The alternative motion will be considered next Thursday, and York Action For Animals intends to lobby councillors as they enter the meeting.

If passed, the motion will mean the council is opposed in principle to the sale of foie gras in the city. The council will refuse to sell it on its premises, and will write to hospitality organisations to inform them of its opposition. It will also lobby Lord Rooker, the Minister for Sustainable Food and Farming and Animal Health, stating the council's concern and requesting a review of Government policies on animal welfare.

Coun Blanchard said: "I call on all councillors in York, whatever party they represent, to vote for the motion. I wanted us to follow the US city of Chicago and become the first city in Britain to ban the sale of foie gras. Whilst that's currently not on the menu, this will send out a powerful message that York does not tolerate animal cruelty."

Joe Moore, a Chicago Alderman who was instrumental in the ban there, said: "If the City of York Council passes this motion, it will make a profound moral statement against cruelty, and send a powerful message that it upholds the values of a civilised and humane society."

Dr Marc Cooper, RSPCA senior scientific officer, said: "The RSPCA is strongly opposed to the production of foie gras whereby the birds are kept in cages and force-fed to produce a very large and fatty liver. This is a cruel practice and undoubtedly results in unnecessary suffering. We would encourage any food retailers and restaurants that are currently selling foie gras to seriously reconsider their support for this cruel practice."