Media Coverage: Crain's New York Business

Farewell, foie gras? Council readies vote on ban

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BY: RYAN DEFFENBAUGH

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The City Council appears set to say au revoir to foie gras.

Following a summer of contentious hearings and demonstrations, the City Council is expected to vote to ban the fattened liver meat, which is made through the controversial force-feeding of either ducks or geese.

The council’s Committee on Health voted 6–0 for a package of animal welfare bills on Tuesday morning, including a ban on foie gras produced through force-feeding.

“I am incredibly proud that this City Council has belatedly and thankfully begun to put empathy for the suffering of animals front and center on our agenda,” said Mark Levine, the northern Manhattan Democrat who chairs the committee.

Also included with the foie gras bill are measures that would limit when horse carriages can operate and increase penalties for trafficking wild birds.

The foie gras bill’s author, Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, said she is trying to create a “more humane city” by outlawing the meat. She is taking up the cause of animal rights groups who say the force-feeding methods required for the meat constitute animal torture. Voters for Animal Rights, a Brooklyn-based advocacy group in favor of the ban, announced plans for a rally before tomorrow’s vote to support the package of bills.

Opposition to the ban has come most strongly from farmers upstate, who say they use methods that are humane and well-monitored. Two duck farms in Sullivan County, about 110 miles from Manhattan, produce the majority of foie gras consumed in the United States. The owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, one of the two farms, told Crain’s this summer that the city represents about a third of Hudson Valley Foie Gras’ sales. Coupled with a statewide ban in California, the farmers believe the latest ban could doom the entire U.S. industry.

Elected officials in Sullivan County have warned their Big Apple counterparts that the ban would take away jobs and tax revenue from the county of about 75,000 people.

Levine acknowledged that many of the bills could hurt businesses. “As society evolves, we have a right to expect that business practices evolve as well,” he added.

Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel voted in favor of the bills but said she was concerned about implications for people working in industries affected by the laws.

“As a council, we should be in the business of making sure we don’t destroy folks who are working every day without having some type of plan to make sure that, three years from now, they can still have some level of viable business,” the Brooklyn Democrat said.

The law would take effect three years after its passage and carry a penalty between $500 and $2,000 per violation.