NYC Passes Ban on Foie Gras Putting Animal Welfare First

A historic vote on animal rights legislation in New York City has led to the City Council banning foie gras from force-fed birds within city limits.

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Reported Law & Policy Policy

Today, on October 30, 2019, the New York City Council passed Intro 1378, banning foie gras from force-fed birds. The Health Committee unanimously voted yesterday to push the bill before the entire Council.

In January, NYC Council Member Carlina Rivera introduced Intro 1378 that would “prohibit the sale or offer for sale of foie gras made from force-fed birds, and in food service establishments would further prohibit the provision of such foie gras in any manner.” 

In addition to Intro 1378, Council members passed a package of animal rights-related legislation. The most notable bills from the package to be passed are Intro 1478 which makes NYC the first city to establish an Office of Animal Welfare within the Mayor’s office; Intro 1425 prohibiting carriage horses from being worked during extreme heat; and Intro 1202 prohibiting non-exempt individuals from taking or attempting to take any wild birds from the City. 

Leading up to today’s vote, Allie Feldman Taylor, President of Voters for Animal Rights, said that the vote by the Council will mark a “truly… historic day for animals.”

Indeed it did. 

Intro 1378 was the most supported bill in the package, and was heavily advocated for over the past nine months by Voters for Animal Rights, along with a coalition comprised of over 50 other nonprofit organizations, including Mercy for Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, and The Humane League.

In addition, 81 percent of NYC voters supported the ban, according to a Mason Dixon poll

The bill also received the support of more than 100 NYC-based restaurants and 50 plus NYC-based veterinarian professionals. 

The only veterinarian in opposition to Intro 1378 was a paid consultant from Hudson Valley Foie Gras (HVFG), according to the Voters for Animal Rights. Dr. Lawrence Bartholf misled the Committee on several accounts and his testimony regarding the health of birds who are force-fed was therefore biased and untrustworthy. 

Together, the activists fighting for this bill represented hundreds of thousands of people who wanted to see the cruelty behind the foie gras industry leave NYC.

“Let’s be clear that force-feeding is an inhumane practice – plain and simple,” said Rivera, who introduced the bill in January. 

Many times a day, the ducks on foie gras farms are violently plucked from their pens to endure egregious amounts of force-feeding. Each bird is force-fed up to three times daily with a 10- to 12-inch metal tube inserted into its esophagus, pumping the bird with grain, fat, and compressed air.

The feeding process is done in a hurried manner to maximize commercial productivity. The sole intent of this gruesome practice is to induce hepatic lipidosis, a diseased state of liver enlargement.

When the birds are approximately 3-months-old, they are slaughtered so that their diseased liver, which can grow to be up to ten times their natural size, can be sold as a delicacy. 

In New York State, there are currently two foie gras producers: Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle Farms, Inc. These two producers represent two of the only three producers of foie gras in the entire United States. 

Push back from the state’s foie gras producers came in the months before the bill passing, stating that jobs would be lost as a result of this bill being enacted. While Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle Farms may need to find new sellers, the push back this bill received due to expected job loss in NYC was false.

A tiny percentage, less than 1.5 percent, of restaurants serve foie gras in NYC. The restaurants that serve foie gras also serve dozens of other luxury items. Therefore, there can be no credible argument made, nor did a single business in NYC testify that any jobs would be lost due to the bill passing.

The bill passing promotes and protects the culinary reputation of NYC by removing a product that knowingly comes from the cruel practice of force-feeding. 

With the passing of Intro 1378, businesses will have a three-year grace period to remove force-fed foie gras from their menus. It is assumed that all foie gras products are a result of force-feeding unless establishments can prove otherwise.

After the grace period, eating establishments that fail to comply with the ban will incur a fine of $500 to $2,000 per violation.

Council Members voted today making it clear that animal welfare and ethics are of top priority to the City of New York.

This is only the beginning. 

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