New York City Council Approves Foie Gras Ban
Once signed by the mayor, the bill will see the city join California in prohibiting the sale of any force-fed poultry products.
Foie gras fans in the Big Apple may want to start getting their fill of the controversial item: The New York City Council has approved a ban on the fatty duck liver as well as other poultry-based foods created through force-feeding by a vote of 42 to 6, with 30 of the Council's members co-sponsoring the bill. Assuming nothing changes moving forward, fines for serving foie gras are set to begin in three years' time when the new regulation will officially take effect.
At this point, foie gras is as well known for being controversial as it is for its culinary uses, and yet, foie gras bans have proved complicated. California's ban has been in flux since 2004 as different judges waffled on whether the regulations were legal—though after the Supreme Court declined to hear the case this past January, the ban seems like it may finally have stuck. And in a more bizarre example, Chicago passed a foie gras ban in 2006 only to repeal it in 2008.
But back in January, New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera decided her city should wade into the foie gras ban waters, introducing bill 1378, proposing that any "retail food establishments or food service establishments" would be prohibited "from storing, maintaining, selling, or offering to sell force-fed products or food containing a force-fed product" or face fines from $500 to $2,000 per offense. Over half of the NYC Council went on to sponsor the bill.
"As a lifelong advocate for animal rights, I am excited that the Council has voted to pass this historic legislation to ban the sale of these specific force-fed animal products," Rivera said in a statement provided to Food & Wine. "Let’s be 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."
"But we also acknowledge that farms need time to adapt their business practices and strategies before this ban goes into effect," Rivera continued. "That’s why there is now a three year phase-in for the legislation that will allow these farms, which produce a wide variety of other duck products, 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. This Council understands that force feeding is animal cruelty, and I am proud that we had 30 co-sponsors for this bill from both political parties. As the first state in the nation to pass an animal cruelty law, I’m proud that we are continuing that tradition by passing this and other bills in the Council’s animal rights package."
According to the New York Times, about 1,000 restaurants across New York City's five boroughs currently serve foie gras. Three years is plenty of time to tweak menus, but the real impact will likely be on producers, especially those in upstate New York where the big city reportedly accounts for about a third of sales. "California and New York were our biggest markets, so this is devastating," Sergio Saravia, head of the Catskill Foie Gras Collective, told the Times. He said his farm has lost $50,000 a week in revenue after California's ban. "It's going to make it difficult to stay afloat."
UPDATE Oct. 31, 2019: This article has been updated to reflect the final vote tally and a statement from Councilwoman Rivera.