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Here’s why NYC just voted to ban foie gras, and why it won’t happen right away

Here’s why NYC just voted to ban foie gras, and why it won’t happen right away
[Photo: Flickr user Internet Archive Book Images]

If you’re a New Yorker, get ready to say “adieu” to foie gras.

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The New York City Council today voted to ban the classic French delicacy, which means “fat liver,” on animal cruelty grounds. The ducks or geese are force-fed before their livers are harvested to make the dish.

“As a lifelong advocate for animal rights, I am excited that the Council has voted to pass this historic legislation to ban the sale of these specific force-fed animal products,” Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, the prime sponsor, said in an email to Fast Company. “Let’s be clear that force feeding is an inhumane practice, plain and simple.”

That doesn’t mean you’ll lose the ability to get your foie gras fix right away. The ban won’t take effect for three years.

According to Rivera, the delay is to enable affected farms “to increase production and develop business opportunities in other regions and states.” She also suggested those businesses consider foie gras production methods used in Spain, where farmers use highly dense foods.

California originally passed a foie gras ban in 2004, but it was challenged over a period of years. It was finally laid to rest this past January when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. And in 2006, amid much mockery, Chicago became the first U.S. city to outlaw the food, but that legislation was repealed in 2008.

Countries around the world have made foie gras illegal, including the United Kingdom, Finland, India, Denmark, and Israel.

That this ban is happening in New York City, arguably the culinary capital of the U.S., is significant.

It’s a city known for its vast array of international cuisines in the form of upscale destination eateries, exotic street food, and deconstructed American offerings. Fusions mingle with luxury vegan options; food trends launch here, while classics are reinvented. All the food options are buoyed by the city’s incredible wealth and an overabundance of expense accounts.

Last week, the Michelin Guide unveiled its 2020 list of New York City and Westchester County selections; 76 restaurants have at least one star. Fifteen years ago, the foodie bible chose New York to be the first U.S. city to earn its own edition.

The Catskill Foie Gras Collective—comprising Hudson Valley Foie Gras, La Belle Farm, and Rougié, which say they’re the main foie gras producers supplying New York City restaurants and stores—says the decision means the loss of 400-plus jobs and millions of dollars in revenues.

The group plans to challenge the ban in court.

“The 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 collective said in a statement.

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