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New York Supreme Court strikes down NYC’s Foie Gras ban

Patricio Robayo
Posted 7/2/24

FERNDALE – In a victory for duck farms, the New York Supreme Court in Albany has ruled against New York City’s 2019 ban on the sale of foie gras. The court found that the local law …

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New York Supreme Court strikes down NYC’s Foie Gras ban


FERNDALE – In a victory for duck farms, the New York Supreme Court in Albany has ruled against New York City’s 2019 ban on the sale of foie gras. The court found that the local law violated state agricultural laws designed to protect farming practices and promote agricultural commerce.

La Belle Farms Inc. and Hudson Valley Foie Gras, both based in Ferndale, challenged the ban, arguing that it unlawfully targeted their farming practices and threatened their livelihoods. The farms employ over 500 workers who depend on the production of foie gras.

“It’s a huge relief,” said Sergio Saravia, President of La Belle Farms. “I don’t have words for it. They [NYC in 2019] ruled against us without knowing how we farm or the kind of people that work for us, the families that we take care of here in the county.”

Local Law 202, enacted in 2019 by the NYC Council, aimed to ban the sale of foie gras in the city due to concerns over animal welfare related to the force-feeding process used in its production.

Jeremy Unger, Communications Director for NYC Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, a strong supporter of the ban, said in 2019, “This common-sense bill will end the force-feeding of animals, an exceptionally cruel and inhumane practice that has been banned in a wide number of countries.”

Foie gras production involves feeding Moulard ducks a fatty cornmeal diet via a tube in their final weeks before slaughter. The process enlarges the duck’s liver, which is then sold at a high price. Other parts of the duck, including bones, carcasses, and feathers, are also utilized and sold.

The farms requested a review of the ban by the Department of Agriculture and Markets. In August 2020, the department’s initial review found that “the local law violates state law in protecting farm operations from local laws that restrict farm operations unreasonably.”

“We are grateful to New York Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets Richard Ball for protecting our livelihoods and the Court for recognizing the importance of the state’s agricultural practices,” said Saravia.

On June 21, the Supreme Court upheld the Commissioner’s decision, stating that Local Law 202 was preempted by state laws that promote and protect the agricultural economy. The City of New York argued that the law merely restricted the sale of certain products within the city and did not directly regulate farming operations. 

However, the court found that the law indirectly impacted farm operations by banning the sale of products resulting from force-feeding practices, affecting the economic viability of farms in agricultural districts. The court concluded that the City’s interest in animal welfare does not override the state’s policy to support agricultural activities.

According to both farms, the ban would have significantly harmed their operations, potentially leading to layoffs and shutdowns, as NYC restaurants represent a large portion of their sales.

U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro (NY-19) commented, “A New York City ban on foie gras would devastate those who can least afford it in Sullivan County – where duck and goose farming account for millions of dollars in economic output. I’ve been fighting alongside our farming community in hopes that the court would see New York City’s ban as it is: government overreach. Today’s decision marks another victory in our fight. New York City should not be allowed to meddle in Upstate New York’s agricultural industry.”

Edward J. Phillips, attorney at Keane and Beane, P.C., who represented the farmers, said, “The Court’s thorough and insightful decision sets an important precedent that protects the farming community in Sullivan County and the broader agricultural economy of New York State.”

Sullivan County District 6 Legislator Luis Alvarez, a strong supporter of the farms who protested the local law in NYC with farm workers in 2019, said, “Well over 400 people and many local businesses depend on the continued existence and success of our foie gras farms. These agricultural operations play a crucial role in both our local economy and culture, and I am very happy that the NYS Supreme Court has reaffirmed their right to function free of unreasonable government interference.”


Reactions from animal rights activists and NYC officials

Animal rights activists and NYC officials criticized the ruling, arguing that it undermines efforts to address animal cruelty. 

Voters For Animal Rights (VFAR) told the Democrat, “This decision is inconsistent with the national trend of local governments acting on behalf of the ethical concerns of its citizens. We are hopeful that New York City will appeal this misguided ruling. VFAR strongly believes there is no place in a moral society for the sale of products of violent force-feeding of ducks and geese, and we will continue to speak for them to end their suffering.”

The NYC Law Department stated, “We believe the city has the authority to implement this local law which is intended solely to ban the sale of foie gras in the city. The law in no way restricts or regulates upstate farms. We are carefully reviewing this ruling and determining next steps.”


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