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New York City to ban most foie gras

Most types of the delicacy foie gras are being banned in New York City under legislation passed Wednesday by the City Council. The law would take effect as soon as 2022. Credit: Newsdsay / Matthew Chayes

Most types of the delicacy foie gras are being banned in New York City under legislation passed Wednesday by the City Council.

The law would take effect as soon as 2022.

Approved by a vote of 42 to 6, the council legislation bars retailers or eateries from “storing, maintaining, selling or offering to sell” food with most foie gras, a staple of French fine dining usually produced by force-feeding a duck or goose to fatten the liver — a traditional culinary process that rankles animal-rights activists, who say the practice is cruel.

“This is about force-feeding, which is an inhumane practice and cannot be allowed to continue,” said the bill's sponsor, Councilwoman Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan). She said that foie gras made without force feeding — in Spain, for example — would remain legal, but some gourmands say the product is inferior and more expensive.

Other jurisdictions that have banned foie gras include California and Germany.

Mayor Bill de Blasio will sign the bill, according to the Democrat's spokeswoman Avery Cohen. The law would take effect three years after his signature.

The law would subject a violator to a civil fine between $500 and $2,000 per offense. An earlier version of the bill contained since-eliminated criminal penalties.

Foie gras typically involves force-feeding a duck or goose with a tube to fatten the animal's liver over multiple days. 

During Wednesday’s vote, ban supporters wore blue T-shirts with images of the animals that read: “BAN FOIE GRAS: A PRODUCT OF CRUELTY.”

Councilman Kalman Yeger (D-Brooklyn), one of the votes against the law, said the bill could cause job losses for lower-income workers and minorities and would not address more relevant city issues, such as crumbling public housing and troubled schools.

“It seems like a dumb bill to me,” Yeger said on the council floor after the vote. He added, sarcastically: "Big epidemic of force-feeding geese on the Lower East Side."

Over the past year, as the council considered versions of the legislation passed Wednesday, farmers and other businesses fought back, citing potential losses of profits and jobs.  

Asked at a news conference whether he would consider targeting other forms of animal consumption that advocates consider cruel, Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said: “I think force-feeding is a thing on its own that is particularly egregious, and I think there’s a lot of consensus from advocates about how cruel that is. But, you know, we can’t solve everything in one day.”

Also Tuesday, the council passed legislation further restricting how horse-drawn carriages can operate in hot and cold weather. The legislation will ban the carriages from working when the temperature hits at least 80 degrees, down from the current 90 degrees. The carriages also won’t be allowed to work when the temperature is below 18.

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