NYC votes to ban foie gras, thinks it can succeed where others failed

Photo: Kondor83 (iStock)

Bans on foie gras, the rich, extravagant dish produced from a fattened duck or goose’s liver, have a spotty track record. California’s ban on force-fed foie gras was upheld earlier this year after the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to it, but a similar Chicago ban lasted only two years and was dubbed by the Mayor as “the silliest law … ever passed.” Now, New York City will give its own foie gras ban a shot.

The New York Times reports NYC City Council passed the ban Wednesday by a solid margin over the objections of some chefs and foie gras producers. The ban would go into effect in 2020, carrying a maximum penalty of $2,000 per violation.

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Proponents of the ban argued the production of foie gras is inherently inhumane, as it typically involves force-feeding ducks through a tube in order to enlarge their livers. But New York state farmers, who have banded together as the Catskill Foie Gras Collective, argue ducks are treated humanely. “They run free and unrestricted in large, regularly cleaned, well-ventilated spaces. Unlike much of the poultry people buy at the supermarket every day, they are never confined to single-space cages,” the group wrote in a statement in response to the ban.

This raises an interesting point: If NYC wants to ban foie gras because it’s produced inhumanely, what about industrial egg production? Or veal production? Surely there is a spectrum of how animals are treated within the American meat, poultry, and egg industries, and while foie gras might be to some an egregious extreme, the City Council may find itself opening a can of worms if it delves too far into how other animal products come to market.

Because NYC’s foie gras ban does not go into effect for three years, there’s plenty of time for chefs, farmers, and foie gras enthusiasts to push back. As we’ve seen in Chicago, bans are subject to backlash and alteration and outright repeal as the whims of city councils, lawmakers, and the public shift. New York City may have it most difficult of all, as the city prides itself on its decadent luxury restaurants, some of which undoubtedly believe fattened duck liver is indispensable.

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Kate Bernot

Kate Bernot is managing editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge.