New York City Foie gras ban: Animal right groups celebrate landmark win as chefs fume over 'short-sighted' decision

Foie gras is the fattened liver of a duck or a goose, made by a process known as gavage, where the birds are force-fed through feeding tubes fattening their livers up to ten times its normal, healthy size.  The bill has brought on cheers from animal rights and welfare groups.   


                            New York City Foie gras ban: Animal right groups celebrate landmark win as chefs fume over 'short-sighted' decision

At present, approximately 1.5 percent of eateries in New York serve foie gras but come 2022, the mecca of fatty duck connoisseurs may not be shelling out their favorite meat-eat anymore. Foie gras will soon be a thing of the past in New York after the city's lawmakers passed a bill that bans restaurants and grocery stores from selling it, citing animal cruelty concerns.

Foie gras is the fattened liver of a duck or a goose, made by a process known as gavage, where the birds are force-fed through feeding tubes fattening their livers up to ten times its normal, healthy size.  The bill has brought on cheers from animal rights and welfare groups. 

The fattened liver has been considered a culinary delicacy for centuries and the ban would impact New York State foie gras producers Hudson Valley, La Belle, and D’Artagnan (Pixabay)

Dr. Martina Stephany,  Director Farm Animals & Nutrition at Four Paws, applauding the decision made by the de Blasio administration told MEA World Wide (MEAWW), "Foie Gras is not a delicacy, it is the result of one the cruelest practices any farm animal has been subjected to." While birds are kept in confined spaces that are mostly small cages, says Stephany, they are also "brutally force-fed with a tube that pumps a mix of feed into them." It causes immense suffering to the animals and that makes selling foie gras a cruel and ethically questionable product, she added. 

The fattened liver has been considered a culinary delicacy for centuries and the ban would impact New York State foie gras producers Hudson Valley, La Belle, and D’Artagnan. Understandably, the chefs are fuming over the decision, calling it an "idiocracy". Chef David Chang of the famous Momofuku global restaurant chain went on Twitter adding, "Stupid short-sighted and a misunderstanding of the situation." Although, New York isn't the first. Ariane Daguin from food manufacturer D'Artagnan said chefs were likely to order more "because they are so mad". Izzy Yanay, co-founder and general manager of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, meanwhile told AFP that the industry would fight back: "We're going to kick their ass in court."

Foie gras was banned in California and was signed into law in 2004. Chicago too passed it two years later but was repealed soon after in 2008. 

PETA spokesperson Catie Cryar told MEAWW that they were celebrating the ban. "The champagne corks are popping and faux gras is thick on the crackers, now that New York City has joined California in outlawing the sale of vile foie gras made from birds' diseased livers." 

An employee feeds a duck at Hudson Valley Duck Farm on December 15, 2017, in Ferndale, New York. Business people, restauranteurs, the simply curious and even politicians visit the Hudson Valley Foie Gras farm in Ferndale, a two-hour drive into the Catskill Mountains from Manhattan, in their hundreds each year. For more than three decades, Izzy Yanay has fought to win acceptance for US foie gras, using his Catskills farm to charm skeptical chefs and counter animal rights campaigners trying to ban the controversial delicacy. (Photo by  DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

The bill, spearheaded by Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Carlina Rivera, who also sponsored the bill, met with a 42-6 council vote for the final version of the bill that could cost $2,000 for each violation. The bill had 30 co-sponsors from both political parties. Calling it a "historic legislation", Rivera told MEAWW in a statement that it is clear that force-feeding is an inhumane practice - plain and simple. "Hundreds of veterinarians testified or submitted testimony acknowledging this fact at our hearing on the bill, with the only veterinarian claiming that foie gras was humane turning out to be a paid consultant for foie gras producers," she said.

She added that they do acknowledge that farms will need time to adapt their business practices and strategies after the ban and the three-year phase-in for the legislation would give them time to do so. The farms produce a wide variety of other duck products and Rivera added that they use the grace period as an opportunity to increase production and develop business opportunities in other regions and states.

"I also encourage all foie gras-producing farms, many of which purport to use sustainable practices, to pursue other methods of foie gras production, such as those done by farmers in Spain that employ different methods using highly dense foods," she added. 

Animal rights activists hold a rally in support of a bill to ban the sale of foie gras on June 18, 2019 at New York City Hall in New York. - The New York City Council Health Committee hearing will also cover 16 bills such as protecting pigeons from poachers, stopping the sale of dogs, cats & rabbits in pet stores, Meatless Mondays, banning cat declawing, protecting carriage horses and more. (Photo by  ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Allie Feldman Taylor, spokesperson for Voters for Animal Rights called the bill "one of the most important animal rights bills passed by any city in the country" and said that ducks in the foie gras industry suffer immensely from ruptured organs, esophagus trauma, broken bones, illnesses, and diseases as a result of the gavage process. "We applaud the City Council and Speaker Johnson for standing on the right side of history by taking a historic step in relegating the barbaric practice of force-feeding innocent ducks for foie gras to the history books.”
 
The foie gras ban had the support of 50 not for profit organizations, led by Voters for Animal Rights, 50 NY-based veterinarians, as well as over 90 NYC based restaurants, they said in a statement. According to a survey conducted by Mason-Dixon, 78 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of independents support the sales prohibition.

 Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle Farm raise approximately 350,000 birds for foie gras every year. Daguin, CEO and founder D’Artagnan has also said that it would result in a loss of jobs for more than 400 immigrant workers and their "chance at the American dream." However, the bill pushes back at the claims saying that no jobs will be affected, because of the very small percentage of the eateries that currently serve fatty liver. A day after the bill passed, they were sued by Voters for Animal rights for "deceptive marketing and advertising of foie gras products." 

If you have a news scoop or an interesting story for us, please reach out at (323) 421-7514