Media Coverage: The Wall Street Journal

Duck Farmers Cry Fowl, Want Cuomo to Halt NYC Ban on Foie Gras

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BY: MELANIE GRAYCE WEST

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The ban would make the delicacy illegal in the city by 2022.

New York duck farmers have appealed to state officials for help in blocking a New York City law that bans the sale of foie gras in restaurants and shops.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras, one of the state’s largest producers of the specialty product, said it plans to file a notice this week with the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets seeking a formal review of the city’s law, which was signed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in November.

Foie gras, or fattened duck or goose liver, is made by force-feeding the birds several times daily to expand their livers beyond their normal size before slaughter. Animal-rights activists and City Council members have said the process is inhumane. Foie gras is served in several high-end restaurants, including Manhattan’s Tocqueville and Eleven Madison Park.

The city’s ban would make the delicacy illegal in the city by 2022.

According to a spokesman for Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the city’s law will prohibit the sale of its primary product in its largest market, causing a loss of some $9 million a year in sales from its $28 million business. New York City is the largest market for foie gras.

A farm in an agricultural district can submit to the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets a request for the review of a local law that it believes may unreasonably restrict the farm’s operation, according to state regulations.

The city’s action to ban the sale of foie gras, the fattened liver of a duck or goose, has the backing of animal welfare advocates. PHOTO: BEBETO MATTHEWS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The plan to send a formal request to review the law follows a letter that Sergio Saravia, president of La Belle Farms, sent on Friday to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In his letter, Mr. Saravia asked the governor for help in overturning the ban, which “deals a fatal blow to the duck farmers of New York State.”

“What right do city legislators have in passing laws that affect rural businesses outside the city limits?” wrote Mr. Saravia. “We believe this ban violates the Agricultural Districts Law in New York that specifically protects farmers against bills like this one which unreasonably restrict farm operations.”

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo deferred comment on the letter to the Department of Agriculture and Markets. A spokeswoman for that agency said the department is reviewing the situation.

“Once the Department receives the formal request for a review of this local law, we will determine whether it is in the scope of our powers and what the next steps will be,” said the spokeswoman.

Hudson Valley-area duck farmers are among the few U.S. producers of foie gras. A challenge to the city’s law was expected.

Animal-rights activists and City Council members have said the practice is inhumane.

Jeremy Unger, a spokesman for Carlina Rivera, a Manhattan Democrat who championed the legislation, said that the law will stand up to any challenge.

“Supporters of force-feeding, which is one of the cruelest practices taking place in our nation’s food industry, have tried for years to legally end California’s ban to no avail, and we are happy that it will be coming to a similar end soon in New York City,” said Mr. Unger.