Chicago Overturned Foie Gras Ban Years Ago—Will New York Do the Same?

New York restaurants and grocery stores will no longer be allowed to sell foie gras after the City Council passed a bill banning the sale of the luxury duck product on Wednesday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill into law. Once that happens, the ban will go into effect in 2020, meaning foodies will have to purchase the delicacy from another state. If the nearly 1,000 restaurants currently offering foie gras on menus fail to follow the new law and keep selling the product, they'll face a $2,000 penalty.

Chicago Overturned Foie Gras Ban Years Ago, Will New York Do The Same?
Animal rights activists hold a rally in support of a bill to ban the sale of foie gras on June 18 at New York City Hall. The law was passed this week by the City Council. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

A similar ban on foie gras was enacted in Chicago in 2006. However, the ban was overturned in 2008 after lobbying by restaurant owners, who said the law could eventually put delicacies like lobster and veal in jeopardy. Chicago's mayor at the time, Richard Daley, said the ban was the "silliest ordinance" the City Council had ever implemented, according to Reuters.

Nonetheless, the ban in New York marked a significant win for animal rights activists, who have long considered the sale and consumption of the product animal cruelty because of the methods producers use to create the product. Foie gras—fattened duck or goose liver—is made through a process called gavage, in which ducks are force-fed a fatty mixture through a tube during a 20-day feeding period. The process enlarges the animal's liver, sometimes up to 10 times its normal size.

The bill's primary sponsors, Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, called the practice "inhumane."

"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," Rivera said in a statement to Newsweek on Thursday.

"Hundreds of veterinarians testified or submitted testimony acknowledging this fact at our hearing on the bill, with the only veterinarian claiming that foie gras was humane turning out to be a paid consultant for foie gras producers," she continued. She noted the legislation's three-year phase-in, which will allow duck and goose foie gras farmers to develop and pursue business opportunities in other regions and states.

Rivera added: "I also encourage all foie gras–producing farms, many of which purport to use sustainable practices, to pursue other methods of foie gras production, such as those done by farmers in Spain that employ different methods using highly dense foods."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which supported the bill by staging protests on the City Council building's steps back in June, was similarly pleased with the measure's passage.

"At PETA, the champagne corks are popping and faux gras is thick on the crackers, now that New York City has joined California in outlawing the sale of vile foie gras made from birds' diseased livers. We thank Speaker Corey Johnson, council member Carlina Rivera, who sponsored the bill, and all the other New York City Council members who voted to make their city a more humane place for gentle ducks and geese," the organization said in a statement to Newsweek.

California's ban on foie gras went into effect in 2012, but it was later overturned by a federal court in 2015. Then, two years later, the ban was upheld by a federal appeals court. The Supreme Court supported the decision, officially outlawing the sale of foie gras in the state in January.

While foie gras is protected as part of France's cultural heritage and continues to be served at many fine dining restaurants across the U.S., 15 countries—including Germany, India and the U.K.—have banned the product. Foie gras has also been blacklisted at mass retailers, including a few in the U.S., such as Costco, FreshDirect, Target and Whole Foods.