Effort to Ban Foie Gras in New York Continues in the Courts

 More than a year ago in June, 2006 several animal rights organizations including the Humane Society of the United States filed an action with the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets to have foie gras banned as an adulterated food product. 

Under New York law an adulterated food product is illegal. Adulterated foods include those which are "the product of a diseased animal or of an animal which has died otherwise than by slaughter" or "consist[] in whole or in part of a diseased, contaminated, filthy, putrid or decomposed substance, or [are] otherwise unfit for food". NY CLS Agr & M § 200(3), (5).

The regulation of the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets defines adulterated slightly differently:

…… if it consists in whole or in part of any filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance or is for any other reason unsound, unhealthful, unwholesome, or otherwise unfit for human food; ….if it is, in whole or in part, the product of an animal which has died otherwise than by slaughter. 1 NYCRR § 301.2 (aa)

(For a complete copy of the New York law defining adulteration of foods, check out ALC’s Laws.)

In support of the petition the animal rights groups submitted evidence to show foie gras is produced from diseased animals. To make foie gras producers shove a pipe two or three times a day down the throats of the geese, pushing into them large amounts of food. This causes lacerations and ruptures of their throats.

Force feeding geese to produce foie gras also causes geese to have difficulty standing, moving or breathing.  The birds can experience nerve damage. They often choke and suffocate. 

Of particular significance to the petition to have foie gras declared to be an adulterated food is that force feeding causes the birds’ livers to become diseased and swell to 10 times their normal size.  As a result the birds suffer from a degenerative disease called hepatic lipidosis (also called hepatic steatosis). This disease destroys liver function, killing the birds. For a report on the necropsy of a goose that was prepared by Dr. Ward Beck and submitted to the NY Department of Agriculture & Markets in support of this petition, go to ALC’s Downloads.  You also find a copy of the Affidavit of Dr. Yvan Beck also submitted in support of the petition.  The petition was supported as well by statements of numerous avian veterinarians and a film of foie gras production.  

Recently, the plaintiff animal welfare organizations intensified their efforts to ban foie gras in New York by amending the petition to add findings from a new study showing some people can develop amyloidosis from ingesting foie gras, which is made from a "pathological alteration" in geese. This condition can result in extensive organ damage, kidney failure , and possible death.  The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

Add to this the cramped, filthy conditions these beautiful animals are forced to live in as they are tortured by force feeding and it is difficult to imagine the NY Dept of Agriculture & Markets can seriously suggest foie gras is not "adulterated" within the meaning of the law.