Avian flu has achieved what animal rights protesters have spent years trying to do - halt the production of foie gras in France, as officials attempt to contain an epidemic of the virus.

Breeders across 18 areas – or départements – in south-west France cannot send their ducks or geese for slaughter until at least August, France’s agriculture ministry said.

The move is intended to help health officials to contain an epidemic of avian flu – H5N1 – spreading across farms in the area.

But, it effectively means a halt to a significant amount of foie gras production in the country.

France produces three quarters of the world’s foie gras and the south-west is a major production zone. Prices are expected to rise and government officials have promised to compensate producers.

Animal rights protesters, such as Peta, have spent years arguing that the traditional process of producing foie gras – force-feeding geese and ducks grains to swell their livers – is cruel and should be banned outright in France.

It has become a political issue in several countries. In the US in 2012, California banned foie gras produced in this way, but the ban was overturned in 2015. California officials have lodged an appeal to get it re-instated.

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