Two farms in Sullivan County — Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle Farms — filed a lawsuit Monday night contesting New York City’s law disallowing restaurants from serving foie gras.
According to legal documents filed in court, the farmers argue the city’s 2019 ban violates state agricultural statues, which state local laws can’t unreasonably restrict farm operations located within an agricultural district.
Farmers contend the ban would inflict significant financial losses, resulting in significant layoffs and closures, and would hurt the local economy.
What You Need To Know
- Hudson Valley Foie Gras is home to 50,000 ducks
- The lifespan of a foie gras duck is 15 weeks, with the last two being an aggressive feeding period to create a swollen liver
- The New York City ban is due to take effect in November
Two farms, Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle Farm, located in Sullivan County filed the suit in Manhattan. Hudson Valley farmers say New York City's ban on the sale of foie gras has left them concerned for the future.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras, home to 50,000 ducks and 300 employees, is located in Ferndale.
Marcus Henley, Vice President of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, says his staff exercises the utmost care while raising the ducks on the farm.
Henley said the farm incentivizes employees to ensure the animals are treated properly. According to them, the healthier the animal, the healthier the product. It’s a 15-week process from hatching to processing of the animal, and it may come to a halt in November due to the city’s law.
The City Council passed legislation in late 2019 prohibiting retail food establishments or food-service establishments from storing, maintaining, selling or offering to sell force-fed products or food containing a force-fed product.
The law goes into effect in November 2022 – Henley expects at least a quarter of the Hudson Valley Foie Gras farm's revenue will disappear in November.
“We have 300 employees and frankly, I don’t know what they’re going to do if we’re not able to provide a job for them,” said Jordan Ginor, a farm employee who helps with finances and budgets. “It’s fundamental to the community, and we’re going to do everything we can to keep our great employees here.”
The lawsuit states the farms would have to lay off at least 100 workers in response to the law and would have to consider shutting down completely. Conflict between activists and farmers stems from the feeding process of foie gras ducks which involves forcing a food tube down the duck’s throat for the purposes of fattening it and its liver.
Ashley Byrne is spokesperson for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“Anyone that has looked at what goes on behind the scenes to produce foie gras knows that it is incredibly cruel,” said Byrne.
“Well, you have to understand that people and ducks are different in their physiology,” said Henley. “When we’re feeding them, the mechanism to protect the lungs closes, so sticking the tube into the esophagus doesn’t have the same reflux as humans.”
Hudson Valley Foie Gras holds what they say is an open-farm policy to educate anyone who wants to learn about the process.
Henley told Spectrum News 1 he extended an invitation to members of the New York City Council to visit the farm but his invitation went unanswered. “We put on this open-farm policy because we’re proud of what we do, and we believe we’re good farmers,” said Ginor.
When asked for comment on the suit, a New York City Law Spokesman said, “the case is under review.”
We’ll have more on @SPECNews1HV tonight.
— Abbey Carnivale (@Abbey_Carnivale) May 24, 2022