New York City’s ban on the sale of foie gras, the fattened livers of ducks and geese prized as an ingredient in many French dishes, may not go into effect if a new ruling by New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets goes unchallenged by the city.
On Wednesday, the agriculture department called the city’s law “unreasonably restrictive” to the two Sullivan County farms, La Belle Farm and Hudson Valley Foie Gras, that had sued in May over the ban.
Passed by the city in 2019 on the grounds of animal cruelty, the ban would prohibit them from selling their products in New York City, one of the country’s largest markets for the ingredient.
It was set to go into effect last month, but in September, a New York State Supreme Court judge issued an injunction regarding the ban, ruling that farms can continue to sell foie gras to restaurants while it makes its way through the court system.
According to a letter sent by the agriculture department to Mayor Eric Adams and a city attorney on Wednesday, New York City has 10 days to comply with the order. “The decision of the Commissioner is final, unless within 30 days the City institutes a proceeding to review the decision in the manner provided,” the letter reads. City officials did not respond to various requests for comment.
A similar ban in California passed in 2004 and took effect in 2012. A federal judge struck it down two years later, but the law has continuously been fought in court. Foie gras has also been banned in several countries and recently from King Charles III’s royal residences.
Sergio Saravia, the president of La Belle Farm, said he was relieved when he first heard about the state department’s ruling on Wednesday. “It’s a weight off our shoulders,” he said adding that the farm was thinking about closing and laying off workers if this ban went into effect.
Edward J. Phillips, Mr. Saravia’s attorney, said that for La Belle Farms and other employers in Sullivan County, the pandemic hit them hard when restaurants in New York City closed. If the ban had continued, he said, La Belle would not have been able to keep its business open. “It was an existential threat,” he said.
The lobbying group Voters for Animal Rights, which backed the ban, said that they were disappointed in the decision. Bryan Pease, an attorney for the group, said he felt that the agricultural department took “an extreme position” when they interpreted the state’s law, which he said has only ever been used in land use matters until now. He also felt that allowing foie gras farming to continue was in violation of the state’s animal cruelty laws.
“This is a product of cruelty, and it has no place in our city,” said Allie Taylor, the founder and president of Voters for Animal Rights.
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