The sale of Foie Gras is to be banned in New York with effect from 2022. The necessary legislation was overwhelmingly passed by the New York City Council on 30th October, as reported in the New York Times. It is expected that about 1,000 restaurants will be affected.
Concerns about animal cruelty were the driving force behind the move.
Foie Gras is the deliberately fattened liver of a duck or goose through a process known as gavage.
To some, this is the barbaric treatment of ducks who have been force-fed a fatty corn-based mixture with tubes inserted into their throats for around twenty days. The result according to animal activists is that the ducks can barely walk and find it hard to breathe while their livers swell to up to ten times its normal size.
To others, this is a French delicacy and a major achievement of haute cuisine.
Cultural Vandalism or Making NYC more Compassionate?
Marco Moreira is the executive chef and owner of Tocqueville, an upmarket French restaurant near Union Square. He reacted with dismay to the news that the foie gras appetiser on its menu has its days numbered.
“New York is the mecca of dining in the world. How is it possible that New York doesn’t have foie gras?” said Moreira.
“What’s next? No more veal? No more mushrooms?” he said.
Moreira described the move as akin to “taking letters from the alphabet; they will take something out of our kitchen vocabulary that’s integral to the restaurant.” It is as if, to a French chef, this is an act of cultural vandalism.
The foie gras farmers claim that the forced feedings are not cruel. They believe that the attacks on them are because foie gras is a “luxury product”.
Carlina Rivera who sponsored the legislation said her bill “tackles the most inhumane process” in the commercial food industry. “This is one of the most violent practices and it’s done for a purely luxury product,” she said.
The ban follows a similar ban in California.
New York was however viewed as a critical battleground for this culture war. The “expense-account culture of extravagance has fed demand for foie gras for decades”.
In future, any restauranteur seeking to serve foie gras will have to have documentary proof that its product did not originate from a duck or goose who had been force-fed.
The president of Voters for Animal Rights, Allie Feldman Taylor, hailed the move as the “most significant animal rights legislation in our city’s history” demonstrating that New York City is “becoming more compassionate.”