Foie gras ban draws heated debate at City Council hearing

Proponents of a citywide ban on foie gras show their support at a City Council hearing on Tuesday.
Proponents of a citywide ban on foie gras show their support at a City Council hearing on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Dia Dipasupil

The City Council had a full plate Tuesday as its Health Committee mulled more than a dozen animal welfare bills that included a ban on foie gras — a delicacy some say is too cruel to stomach.

The anti-foie gras bill, sponsored by Manhattan Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, would specifically ban the sale of certain poultry products “that are the result of force-feeding birds” at food service establishments in the five boroughs.

“I think the animal cruelty aspect is undeniable,” said Allie Taylor, president of Voters for Animal Rights, who testified in favor of the ban.

Numerous animal advocates, clad in blue t-shirts that read “Ban Foie Gras,” packed the Council chambers. Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, donned a blue “Ban Foie Gras” t-shirt for part of the hearing.

Opponents of the ban also came out in large numbers, wearing green t-shirts emblazoned with “Save the Foie. Save NY Farms.”

The ban’s supporters said gruesome methods are used to create the foie gras. Ducks and geese are force fed via a metal tube to make their livers larger, more fatty and flavorful.

Twenty-five of the Council’s 51 members have signed onto the bill. No vote was taken during Tuesday’s hearing.

“This has to be stopped,” said Queens Councilman Robert Holden.

Many who opposed the ban were affiliated with or worked at upstate farms that provide foie gras to city eateries.

“I can assure you that if the mistreatment of ducks was part of our jobs none of us would be here and our farm would be out of business,” Nelson Saravia Jr., a second-generation farmer from La Belle Farm in upstate Sullivan County, told members of the Council.

Sean Brooks, the owner of a towing and truck repair business that works with Hudson Valley Fois Gras and La Belle Farms, said the proposed legislation would hurt his business and employees.

“The two farms are a huge economic staple for the Sullivan County agriculture region,” he testified.

The hearing, which lasted more than five hours, also included the discussion of bills that would make it illegal to declaw cats except in certain circumstances; ban carriage horses from working if the heat index reaches or exceeds 90 degrees; create a Department of Animal Welfare; and require dog owners to show immunization against kennel cough before bringing their four-legged friends into a boarding kennel.

All 16 items, which included resolutions, could be voted on at a future meeting.

“I am incredibly proud of the pace at which New York City has been advancing animal welfare legislation in recent years,” said Manhattan Councilman Mark Levine, who chairs the Health Committee.