Some multilingual giant ducks protested the European parliament building in Strasbourg today

"This new series of Doctor Who looks rubbish." Image: PETA.

That's it. The headline is pretty much the whole story. Look. It's a picture of people, dressed as ducks, protesting, in Strasbourg.

That's it, that's all you're getting.

Oh, alright, here's another one.

Ruins the illusion when there are actual human beings there as well, doesn't it?

These ducks represent the campaign group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, to you. They're delivering a petition with 44,000 signatures calling on the European Parliament to ban foie gras from itself.

Foie gras, for those who haven't had the pleasure, is the pan fried liver of force-fed ducks and geese. (The people dressed as geese were presumably busy today.) It is one of the tastiest delicacies out there.

But it’s also one of the most appalling in the way that it's made. Tubes are forced down the throats of the poor unlucky birds, and their stomachs are pumped with terrifying quantities of fat and grain until they grow to enormous size and their livers get so distended that their lungs are constricted and they can barely breathe.

It's horrible. So horrible that the production of the stuff, whose name literally translates as “fat liver”, is banned in several European countries, including the UK, Germany and Italy. But it still shows up in expensive restaurants because it's also really tasty.

This protest took place in Strasbourg, the French city to which the European parliament decamps for 12 sessions of four days or so each and every year. We should probably tell you something about Strasbourg, to give you the impression that this is in some way a cities story, rather than an excuse to run a picture of giant ducks in business suits, which it very obviously is.

Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region of north eastern France. It first appears in the historical record around 12BCE, when it was a Roman border camp, guarding the Empire against incursion from the German tribes on the other side of the Rhine.

By the middle ages it was a “free city”, a commercial centre with the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, run by merchants rather than aristocrats. By the time Napoleon comes along, Alsace was not a great place to be, peace-wise, and Strasbourg spent the 19th and 20th centuries swapping back and forth between France and Germany in a succession of wars, until finally being confirmed as French in 1944.

It's this position on one of the big historic fault lines of Europe that's made Strasbourg the ideal site for a couple of dozen EU institutions. Although whether that's enough to justify an entire parliament of 751 MEPs and their staff making the 400km journey from Brussels roughly once a month is a different question.

Anyway, the key point here is – don't eat foie gras. It's bad. Got that? Good.


CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

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CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

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As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

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Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.