TagFortnum and Mason

Know what you are eating, Foie Gras Pate the truth

December is when I dive into London and hit all my favourite stores for a days worth of Christmas shopping. I love this mini-shopping spree day, as this is the only opportunity I get to do any real Christmas shopping. I get such a kick out of visiting these old buildings full of real British charm, decorated head to toe in the finest Christmas decorations. I somehow feel like Wendy out of Peter Pan – It is a simply magical experience and one everyone needs to try. I’m not a massive fan of shopping normally and hate on line shopping, as there’s rarely any personality and good customer service behind your purchase. This is why I love to visit stores such as Harrods, Selfridges and Fortum and Mason.

As a previous employee at Harrods- I’ve had the full customer service training which each and every staff member receives regardless of which department they are destined for. The staff just make my shopping trip, as normally nothing is too much trouble, and the customer is always looked after to a high standard. This is something I’ve passed onto all of my staff and hope this is what sets us apart from all of our in store and on line competition. I suppose the irony for this blog post was that I worked as an elf at Harrods one year and that is also why I especially love London at Christmas – because it brings back such fond memories.

However this year my shopping trip was destroyed by a trip into Fortum and Mason’s. On what can only be described as a real life version of “Super Market Sweep”, my husband and I did the rounds filling our baskets with luxury products for our friends and family. Fine teas, wines, mince pies, the list goes on and on. Whilst visiting the food court downstairs I discovered a tin for sale containing Foie Gras. I instantly felt sick. It brought back a terrible memory of a video I once watched in the production of this vile cruel product. My day was instantly ruined. The whole day I kept thinking back to that tin and what those birds must have gone through to make that product.

This link below, narrated by Sir Roger Moore sums up the cruelty. I urge everyone to watch it even though it is distressing. There should be great importance placed on knowing where and how your food is produced.

http://www.peta.org.uk/blog/shocking-footage-exposes-cruelty-abuse-farms-supplying-fortnum-mason-foie-gras-distributor/

I have now decided to start a campaign in the hope to totally remove from sale this product from all UK stores starting with Fortum and Mason. In my research into this product I have found disappointingly that Harrods will be my next point of call for a letter. This hurts more than discovering that F&M stock this product as I have previously worked for this company. On a more positive note, Selfridges of London have been leading by example, removing from sale this barbaric item since 2009. I even discovered in my research that they sacked a well-loved butcher who took it upon himself to sell the product under the counter in their main London store like contraband.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/8976210/Celebrity-butcher-Jack-OShea-escorted-from-Selfridges-in-foie-gras-row.html

My hat is raised to Selfridges and I hope that Harrods and F&M can see that in 2017 that there is no place for the sale of this horrendous product.

My letter below will be sent tomorrow to F&M and I shall also write to Harrods. I shall be updating my blog with the outcome. Wish me and my one-woman quest the best of luck!


Dear Fortnum and Mason,

I just want to start by thanking you for giving us “Fortum and Mason.” What an incredible store, full of great British enchantment and nostalgia. Renowned as a true piece of British iconic culture, defining British high end retail at its very best, and for this reason one of my first stops whenever visiting London.

You have for years romanticised us mere mortals with you bohemian take on lifestyle, home, food and drink. Creating such magic as marmalade bucks fizz with edible glitter and giving us products such as olive wood and sterling silver honey drizzliers. Whoever would have thought we would have required such decadence in our lives.

It has always been a pleasure to spend money in your establishment, as I adore your quirkiness and sense of style. The very giving of gifts from F&M enables the public to reap huge amounts of selfish gratification and reward; after all who wouldn’t want to receive pure indulgence in gift form?

Until my last visit your store in my eyes was held in such high regard; that was however until I realised you stocked foie gras.

For me as a customer you’ve destroyed the very personification of your store. I can’t believe such a wonderful British institution could have fallen to such an all time low. I would love to know which ill educated buyer from your store ever thought that putting foie gras for sale in your store was a good idea?

Being regarded, as one of the top British food emporiums should come with some large responsibilities, one of which should be the ethical treatment of animals. Fortum and Mason should be leading the country by example, and not putting profit up for exploitation.

F&M’s famed previously for the finest British Royal meat, has hit rock bottom in my books. By stocking and selling foie gras you have done your country, store and British famers a massive disservice, not to mention the copious amounts of birds, which you contribute in torturing on a daily basis.

I should now point out I am not some hippy, tree-loving vegetarian, on a vegan quest to change the world one animal bite at a time, but someone who cares about animal welfare, standards and where her foods comes from. This is something all of us should take a pride in- vegan, vegetarian or not.

You should also know I am the grand daughter of a farmer who cared greatly for the welfare of his farm and have been brought up to respect all animals, regardless of what they were bred for. My grandfather always taught us that farmers should keep their livestock to a high standard of welfare while in their care – sadly this is something none of your foie gras farmers could ever say they achieve due to their cruel farming techniques. There is after all a reason why foie gras production isn’t farmed in the UK and the reason is that it’s just barbaric.
We should all be lobbing parliament for the total removal of this product from UK sale. If it’s too barbaric to be farmed here, then it should be too barbaric to be consumed here.

It may seem hypocritical that I have these opinions, because I am not vegetarian and the outcome for any animal bred for the purpose of food is always death. However, I believe we should not contribute or torture any animal regardless of its final fate.

I’m not too sure if you are all familiar with how foie gras is made? If not I have included a short synopsis from the RSPCA website.

What is Foie Gras?
Foie gras means ‘fatty liver’, a product produced from the livers of force-fed ducks or geese and used to produce foodstuffs such as pâté de foie gras.

Foie Gras production
Foie gras is not produced in the UK, and would be illegal to produce under animal welfare laws due to the welfare problems associated with producing it. The main producers of foie gras are France, Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain and Belgium.

Before force feeding, birds are typically kept in buildings on straw bedding with access to an outdoor area.

The force-feeding period
Force-feeding begins when the birds are approximately 12 weeks old and, lasts for around 12 to 15 days when the birds are then slaughtered.

Most ducks (around 80 per cent) are kept individually in small, wire or plastic cages with their head placed through an opening in the front, so the neck is easy to grasp. During force-feeding a feeding pipe is inserted into the birds mouth and down its throat. A large quantity of food is then delivered down the pipe for 45 to 60 seconds using a motorised or hand-operated auger, or for 2 to 3 seconds using an automatic pump. The birds are usually force-fed two or three times each day.

Key welfare issues
We are opposed to the production of foie gras due to the many serious welfare problems it causes for the birds involved, including:

    • Force-feeding prevents birds from carrying out their normal feeding behaviour.
    • The feeding pipe can damage the birds’ throats.
    • The handling involved during force-feeding can be stressful.
    • Birds’ livers may become 6 to 10 times the normal size and stop working properly.
    • The keeping of birds in small, individual cages doesn’t allow the birds to stand, walk, preen, stretch their wings or carry out their normal behaviours properly.

I would expect an on-trend store such and Fortnum and Mason to be following examples from the royals, who have also banned foie gras from all of their menus at all of their residencies.

I now look forward to your response as to why you have chosen to supply this product and what the future holds for the foie gras in your store. As a prestigious retailer I would hope that you seek to totally remove this product from sale as of immediate effect and cancel any further buying, doing right by the British public and the animals that this cruel product serves.

Kind regards

Diana Von Kirk

Presenting: The good, the bad and the ugly … Comments

I love presenting and can’t describe the feeling in words it gives you. Standing up in front of a crowd with everyone watching and listening to you. Being one of three daughters meant I always had to be the loud one to be noticed, so hundreds or thousands of people watching you be the centre of attention is a priceless experience, and one that everyone should try at least once in their life.

The nerves you get before you open your mouth should be bottled up and sold as a legal high. Your legs start to shake and your heart rate picks up as you walk to the centre of the stage. I’m getting tingles all over just thinking of the moment before I look out and open my mouth.

I don’t do drugs but this is the closest that I will get to the feeling of being high. When you get off the stage and you’ve nailed it, you just want to high five everyone. I may be guilty of the odd fist pump after an appearance, she says wincing.

I’ve had some amazing jobs presenting. I’ve shared the stage with celebrities such as Jake Wood AKA Max Branning, co presented with Fiona Bruce and presented for international brands such as Gore-Tex and GlaxoSmithKline.

Don’t get me wrong there have been moments that I’ve wanted to walk off crying, but you’ve got to keep smiling and hold it together until you’ve taken that last step off the stage.

Luckily I’ve only left the stage once wanting to cry after someone took it upon themselves to destroy me publicly because it gave them a good reaction from the audience. Being a target in front of hundreds of people is sole destroying and I cried the whole way home thinking I never wanted to present ever again. My ego crushed and my confidence in tatters.

I got over it a week later but getting back on the stage filled me with dread that next week. I just told myself that we all have a bad days at the office and that the stage was my office. As it happened the next gig was epic and I selfishly lapped up the positive attention of doing a good job.

This experience makes me really synaptic to anyone being victimised so publicly. Ok so it’s happened to me once but being a presenter or celebrity means that you’re fully allowed to be humiliated and put down anytime, by anyone, for any reason. Most of the public seem to think it’s ok to call out or write unkind comments on social media like they’re never going to be seen by anyone other than their mates. Obviously it’s ok to have a bit of a joke, we all need to have a sense of humour, but not when it becomes a personal attack. That’s the step too far.

Last week Fortnum and Mason held a food and drink award ceremony hosted by Claudia Winkleman. Its F&M way of thanking all of their amazing suppliers; after all F&M do sell some pretty amazing food and drink. (Edible glitter covered shortbread should be on your list to try before you die.)

Well the long and short to this story is that they published the photos live it seemed, onto Instagram as the ceremony took place. There amongst the kind and well thought out messages were some pretty vile comments. I couldn’t believe how many people were being so critical, judgemental and darn right rude. There were some very personal attacks on everyone from Claudia Winkleman the host to the CEO of F&M Ewan Venters.

I couldn’t understand why people felt the need to comment with those negative words when their victims were so obviously going to read them? This event was meant to be about celebration not negativity. These unkind words really seemed to dampen the event on Instagram and really undermine what F&M were trying to achieve. The comments about the CEOs appearance have vanished but the Claudia ones remain.

I like to think that Claudia Winkleman as a professional probably just shrugged her comments off, but they still must have hurt. I now wonder if those words effected her like they did to me at her next gig? She is human after all.

I couldn’t stand there reading the comments without feeling the need to comment back. I hate bullies.

No one commented after my words or took the opportunity to withdraw their comments.

I did receive a private message a day later from Fortnum and Mason.

It was nice to know my sentiments were gratefully received and it made me selfishly feel good for a while and I hoped that Claudia had read them too, so she knew not everyone shared their vile views. I didn’t feel the need to sympathise as a fellow presenter. Just pointing out comments of that kind were not required and weren’t true was my way of silencing the bullies and it work.

I know this isn’t an isolated case and thousands of “trolls” spread vile words daily but we must all stop and think before we comment. Whether you’re commenting on social media or face to face, it’s not on. You wouldn’t stand for it at your office or workplace so why should we?

That’s when the wise words of “If you’ve got nothing nice to say, then don’t say it at all”.

I hope next time people remember that there is a person inside that celebrity or personality and that they are just doing a job.

So next time you’re on a social media page or at a gig – think before they comment.