Farmers and animal-rights activists faced off Tuesday during a nearly-day-long New York City Council hearing over legislation that would prohibit the sale of foie gras, with violators punished by a fine as high as $1,000.
While the bill would force menu changes at a small number of high-end restaurants, it would mostly affect several duck farms in the Hudson Valley that are among the few U.S. producers of the delicacy. Foie gras, or fattened duck or goose liver, is made by force-feeding the birds several times daily to expand their livers up to 10 times their normal size before slaughter.
The practice is inhumane, according to animal-rights activists and the legislation’s sponsor, Carlina Rivera, a Democrat representing the East Village, Gramercy Park and Flatiron neighborhoods in Manhattan. Foie gras is a luxury product consumed by few, she said. Ms. Rivera introduced the bill in January.
“What I am trying to do is put forward a bill that would end this practice and create a more humane New York City to live in,” said Ms. Rivera during a Committee on Health hearing.
Christine Kim, the animal-welfare liaison to the city’s Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio, said during testimony that the mayor’s office supports the intent of the bill.
The proposed New York City ban would follow a similar statewide prohibition in California and one that existed for a time in Chicago. A statewide ban has been introduced several times in recent years in the New York state Senate.
Farmers who appeared at Tuesday’s hearing defended how they treated the animals and their businesses, saying that their operations aren’t large-scale industrial farms.
Andy Wertheim, president of D’Artagnan, a gourmet-food purveyor, said the company does about $15 million worth of duck foie gras sales in New York City. A ban would have serious repercussions for the company.
“Too many lives depend on you not rushing to judgment today,” he told council members.
Mr. Wertheim and Izzy Yanay, vice president of Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, N.Y., urged council members to visit his farm. He said the animal activists were “missing the mark” on their claims of cruelty because his establishment is a small-scale, artisanal farm, not a factory farm.
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Appeared in the June 19, 2019, print edition as ‘Activists, Farmers Square Off Over Proposed Foie Gras Ban.’