City Council bans foie gras, restricts horse carriages

Proponents of a citywide ban on foie gras show their support at a City Council hearing on Tuesday. Photo Credit: William Alatriste

The legislation was applauded by animal rights activists.

Foie gras and some summertime rides on horse-drawn carriages could soon become a thing of the past in New York City.

The City Council passed on Wednesday a gaggle of animal-friendly bills including a ban on foie gras and new restrictions on horse carriage operations during hot summer days.

“To see the City Council grow in their empathy towards all animals, including ones raised on farms for food, is an incredible evolution to see,” said Allie Feldman Taylor, president for Voters for Animal Rights.

Under one bill, store and restaurants can be charged with a misdemeanor and hit with fines between $500 and $2,000 for selling the French delicacy. The legislation was applauded by animal rights activists who argue that the practice to create foie gras cruel.

In order for a goose or a duck to develop a liver fatty enough to be used for the dish, farmers normally force-feed the foul grain via a small metal tube multiple times a day.

“We are going to see this type of legislation passed in other cities now,” said Feldman Taylor.

Opponents, however, worry about the human toll of the law once it takes effect in 2022.

New York City accounts for about a third of business for Marcus Henley, owner and operator of two foie gras producing farms in upstate New York. Without that revenue, he said, Henley’s farms would be unsustainable and would put 400 employees out of work.

The Catskill Foie Gras Collective, which has been pushing back against the ban for months, indicated it will continue to fight the legislation.

Animal rights activists also cheered the new restrictions to horse carriage operations.

Horses pulling carriages in Central Park will no longer be able to work if air temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit or when it is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the equine heat index indicates that that it is 150 degrees. The equine heat index is determined by adding the air temperature in Fahrenheit to humidity outside.

“You can not justify forcing horses to pull thousands of pounds in brutal heat waves,” said Edita Birnkrant, executive director of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets ( NYCLASS).  For Birnkrant the new regulations could not come soon enough stating that this was the first real step for ending the suffering of horses in New York City. “There is still a lot to do but this is a great step.”

But Central Park horse carriage drivers are also worried about the survival of their industry. According to horse carriage driver Christina Hansen, the number of days that horses will be able to work in the park will be unnecessarily slashed. Hansen add that in order for horses to stay healthy they need to be outside and moving has much as possible and that working is something horses enjoy doing.

The bundle of bills passed also included banning the trafficking of wild birds, requiring the NYPD to report data in regard to animal cruelty complaints and requiring dogs being boarded in city kennels to be vaccinated for bordetella.

Alejandra O'Connell-Domenech