Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time

Archives

How NYC Activists and Lawmakers Achieved a Foie Gras Ban in the Nation’s Gastronomic Capital

November 8, 2019 by Leave a Comment


The News

In spite of being heralded as one of the most progressive cities in the United States, New York has lagged behind several other major cities in advancing the rights of animals.  In fact, from 2006 to 2013, at a time when animal rights was beginning to be embraced by the mainstream public, the most powerful lawmaker in New York City, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, blocked every meaningful legislative effort to improve even the basic welfare of animals. In recent years, however, a new crop of lawmakers in New York City has championed both animal welfare and animal rights legislation.

The City Council passed its first signature animal rights bill, a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, in 2017. To the delight of animal rights activists and many City Council members, that historic moment was upstaged on October 30th, 2019, when the Council passed a package of 11 bills and resolutions to help companion animals, wild animals and animals killed for food. During the vote, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the most animal-friendly Speaker in the Council’s history, gleefully stated, “The Council will be voting on a lot of bills – a lot of bills and resolutions that will strengthen our existing animal welfare laws in New York City.”

PETA president Ingrid Newkirk is force fed during a foie gras protest at Fortnum & Mason, a gourmet food store  in London

The most controversial of the bills was a ban on sale of foie gras in restaurants and stores. According to the New York Times, an estimated 1,000 restaurants sell foie gras in New York City, which is arguably the gastronomic capital of the country. In spite of the risk of criticism from the prominent chefs and the media, City Council Member Carlina Rivera introduced and championed the legislation.

In addition to being force fed until their livers swell to ten times their normal size, ducks and geese killed for foie gras are raised in factories where these aquatic animals have no access to water.

In 2006, Council Member Alan Gerson attempted to introduce a foie gras ban, but Speaker Christine Quinn, who notoriously controlled the city’s legislative agenda, blocked it before other Council Members could even weigh in. A 2007 New York Times story about foie gras protests at Fairway made reference to this incident. In stark contrast to Speaker Quinn, the current Speaker, Corey Johnson, supported Council Member Rivera’s bill to ban foie gras sales.

Matt Dominguez and Allie Feldman Taylor from Voters for Animal Rights flank Carlina Rivera, the NYC Council Member who introduced the bill to ban the sale of foie gras.

While the animal rights community credits the current City Council for passing laws to protect animals, the historic foie gras bill would not have been introduced, much less passed, by the City Council, were it not for a two year campaign waged by Voters for Animal Rights (VFAR), a group that advocates for animal rights legislation in NYC. With the support of hundreds of grass roots animal rights activists, VFAR organizers Allie Feldman Taylor and Matt Dominguez partnered with animal rights groups, veterinarians, and restaurants to create a coalition of supporters who lobbied City Council members and educated the public about the cruelty associated with the production of foie gras.

David Chang, the founder of the Momofuku restaurant group, criticizes the City Council for passing the bill to ban the sale of foie gras.

After working with Council Member Rivera to get the bill introduced, VFAR supporters, led by Taylor and Dominguez, lobbied the members of the City Council’s Health Committee, which is where the bill was assigned for review. On the day of the Committee vote, the Chair, Council Member Mark Levine, made an impassioned speech suggesting that lawmakers have an ethical mandate to protect animals: “As society evolves, we have a right to expect business practices evolve as well. I am incredibly proud that this City Council has begun to put empathy for the suffering of animals front and center on our agenda, and, more importantly, that we are translating that empathy into tangible policy, smart policy for the animals in this city and beyond. And that does mean changing the food we consume and changing the food production system.”

After the votes for the foie gras ban were counted, the animal rights activists in the City Council chambers rejoiced, not only because hundreds of thousands of birds will be spared from force feeding, but also because the City Council sent a strong message to the public that lawmakers are now recognizing the plight of animals and the need for laws to protect them. “We’ve seen a tremendous shift in the compassionate consciousness of our City Council Members,” said Taylor. “It’s a new day for animal rights in New York City.”


Filed under: Food
Tagged with: ,

Animal Rights Activist Being Sent to Jail: “The Animals Have it Far Worse.”

June 8, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

Amber Canavan is spending the month of July in jail. Her crime? Entering a foie gras facility, where tens of thousands of ducks are intensively confined and force fed through metal pipes, and rescuing two of them.

Amber Canavan entered Hudson Valley Foie Gras to document and expose the cruelty

Amber Canavan entered Hudson Valley Foie Gras to document and expose the cruelty

“We still live in a world where people who commit the abuses are victims and those who expose them are criminals,” said Ms. Canavan. “I don’t want to go to jail, but my time there will be a cakewalk compared to what animals are forced to endure in foie gras factories.”

Ducks cower in fear at the side of their cage at Hudson Valley Foie Gras (photo: still shot from footage taken by Amber Canavan)

Ducks cower in fear at the side of their cage at Hudson Valley Foie Gras (photo: still shot from footage taken by Amber Canavan)

In 2011, Ms. Canavan and another activist whose identity she has protected paid a late night visit to Hudson Valley Foie Gras in upstate New York, the largest foie gras producer in the United States. While there, she documented the “deplorable” conditions in which the ducks are kept. The footage she captured was used in a foie gras exposé produced by the Animal Protection and Rescue League and narrated by actress Wendy Malick.

In February, the NY Times published a lengthy story about the incident, which linked to the video and informed readers about the “force feeding” required to produce this “controversial” dish. “I take comfort in the fact the NY Times article and the footage that I took have helped to expose the atrocities being committed against these animals,” said Ms. Canavan.

Excerpt from NY Times story about Amber Canavan and Hudson Valley Foie Gras

Excerpt from NY Times story about Amber Canavan and Hudson Valley Foie Gras

After several weeks of intensive care, the two ducks rescued by Ms. Canavan recovered from their injuries and are “flourishing” at a sanctuary, where they have access to fresh air, proper care and water for swimming. Ducks and geese are aquatic animals, but they have no access to water in foie gras factories.

Ducks are aquatic animals but have no access to water in foie gras factories. These two ducks were rescued by Amber Canavan.

Ducks are aquatic animals, but they have no access to water at Hudson Valley Foie Gras and other foie gras producers. These two were rescued by Amber Canavan.

The campaign to expose foie gras cruelty and hold restaurants that serve it accountable has intensified in recent years. Since 2014, activists in the U.K. with Hertfordshire Animal Rights and London Vegan Actions (LVA) have compelled at least 10 restaurants to stop selling foie gras. In recent months, LVA has staged provocative disruptions inside of establishments that refuse to remove the “delicacy of despair” from the menu.

Amber Canavan will complete her jail term at the end of July, but her punishment won’t stop there. For the next five years, an order of protection – a penalty intended to protect victims of stalkers or domestic violence – will prevent her from campaigning against Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Ms. Canavan hopes that the court’s breach of her civil liberties and “heavy-handed” jail sentence backfire by triggering activists to convince as many restaurants as possible to drop foie gras.

Your Turn

Amber sacrificed her safety, freedom and financial security to expose the plight of animals exploited and killed for foie gras. Now, she needs help. Please make a tax deductible donation to her legal defense fund.


Filed under: Food
Tagged with: , , , , , ,

California’s Foie Gras Ban Has Far Reaching Implications

October 15, 2014 by Leave a Comment


The News

In a major victory for ducks, geese and their advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the California law banning the sale and production of foie gras. The Court’s decision sends a strong message to other states that they can, as  California Attorney General stated, pass laws that “prohibit the sale of products based on concerns about animal welfare.”

Force feeding

Force feeding

Described by activists as a “delicacy of despair,” foie gras is produced by force feeding ducks and geese through metal pipes until their livers become diseased, swelling up to ten times their normal size. The pipes are inserted 12″ down their esophaguses three times daily in the weeks leading up to slaughter.

In 2013, Mercy For Animals used hidden cameras at the nation’s largest producer to document the abuse inherent in foie gras production:

The fight to ban foie gras has taken many turns. In Chicago, a 2006 ban on the sale of foie gras was reversed in 2008, representing a major setback for activists who lobbied tirelessly in support of the law. In England, on the other hand, the group Hertfordshire Animal Rights has stopped the sale of foie gras at least six restaurants since August.

PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk in London

PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk in London

The Artisan Farmers Alliance, a trade association for America’s three foie gras producers, is working to curb bans on foie gras by “educating the public about our centuries-old farming practices” and by “defending the rights of consumers to make their own decisions about food.” Of course, it is the job of activists to defend the ducks and geese from animal exploiters who spin cruelty into freedom of choice.

Your Turn

Please sign the current petition to ban the production and importation of foie gras in Europe.


Filed under: Food, Investigations
Tagged with: , , , ,