New York City’s Proposed Foie Gras Ban Could Put Duck Farms Out of Business

Animal rights groups argue that's a good thing

Perigord geese bred for the production of Foie Gras, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, Dordogne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France.
Perigord geese bred for the production of Foie Gras, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, Dordogne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France.
By Bonnie Stiernberg / October 3, 2019 6:00 am

With foie gras bans already in place in California and Chicago, New York duck farmers are concerned that a proposed ban of the dish — which would outlaw the sale of any cuisine produced by gavage, the force-feeding of birds — could put them out of business.

Those who violate the proposed bill, which could come up for a vote later this month, would face a fine up to $1,000 and a year in prison. That could spell bad news for La Belle and Hudson Valley, the nation’s two main foie gras producers. While animal rights activists have long insisted that foie gras is the result of cruelty, La Belle president Sergio Saravia takes issue with that characterization.

“Whatever someone portrays us as, [consumers] are taking as true,” he told Eater. “When they say we mistreat the ducks, when they just judge you without knowing you, it’s an insult…If we lose, we might end up not being able to pay for our overhead costs or our workers and lose our company. That’s why we’re trying to take this bill off the table. It will be very, very difficult if it passes.”

Saravia added that foie gras farms “mimic what the bird does in nature.” “The duck actually dictates how we follow the program,” he said. “We do not shove tons of feed down his throat. We feed the bird three times a day, and whatever the bird is able to digest, we drop in the crop.”

Matt Dominguez, political advisor for Voters for Animal Rights, pointed out that 81 percent of New Yorkers support the proposed foie gras ban and insisted that the practice of force-feeding ducks and geese to produce the delicacy is cruel.

“Force feeding them for the purpose of diseasing their liver is the definition of pain,” he said. “Force feeding is cruel; it causes damage to the esophagus. The enlarged liver puts pressure on other organs, prevents the ducks’ air sacs from being able to inflate properly, and causes stress and pain and would result in death.”

More than half of the New York City Council has signed onto the bill as co-sponsors, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has voiced his support for the proposed ban.

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