FILE - In this July 18, 2019 file photo, Marcus Henley, operations manager for Hudson Valley Foie Gras duck farm, holds a Moulard duckling, a hybrid farm Peking duck and a South American Muscovy duck in Ferndale, N.Y. The sale of foie gras in New York City is about to be a faux pas. City council members on Wednesday, Oct. 30, are expected to pass a bill that bans the sale of fattened liver of a duck at restaurants, grocery stores or shops. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

New York City lawmakers pass bill banning sale of foie gras

October 30, 2019 - 5:07 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill that bans restaurants and grocery stores from selling foie gras, the fattened liver of a duck or goose considered a culinary delicacy for centuries.

The bill, which is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, would forbid the sale of the French specialty starting in 2022. Animal welfare activists had campaigned for a ban on the grounds that the methods used to produce foie gras are cruel, involving force-feeding a bird a corn-based mixture through a tube briefly slipped down its throat.

Farmers who produce foie gras say the birds are treated humanely and don't suffer during the fattening process.

The final version of the bill called for violators of the ban to pay a fine of up to $2,000 for each violation. The original bill set a fine of up to $1,000 and a prison penalty of up to one year that has been dropped.

California banned the sale of foie gras in 2012. That law was challenged in federal court, but an appeals court eventually upheld it. Chicago banned foie gras in 2006; the ordinance was repealed two years later.

The New York City ban could mean trouble for two farms outside the city that are premier U.S. producers of foie gras, with New York as their prime market. The farms employ about 400 mostly immigrant workers whose jobs could be in jeopardy due to the loss of city business, in addition to other area farmers growing corn for the feed and vendors selling other supplies.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras and the La Belle Farm collectively raise about 350,000 birds for foie gras a year that bring in $15 million worth of foie gras — a third of it going to New York City. Each liver retails for as much as $125.

As voted on, the bill "would prohibit retail food establishments or food service establishments from storing, maintaining, selling, or offering to sell force-fed products or food containing a force-fed product."

Ariane Daguin, whose New Jersey-based company, D'Artagnan is the main U.S. distributor for the two farms' product, said the ban was approved on a false premise — "that the process is inhumane."

She said such an assumption is not supported by practices at the farm, where the birds roam freely and are fed by hand every eight hours.

"Not one council member has made any effort to learn about this process and all have refused to visit the farms to understand the process first-hand," Daguin said. "This vote is not constitutional and council members have been wrongly influenced by animal activists who are financing their political campaigns."

Matthew Dominguez, an advisor to the Voters for Animal Rights nonprofit that opposes foie gras production, countered that group supporters "applaud the city council for relegating the barbaric practice of force-feeding innocent ducks for foie gras to the history books."

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