Foie News: Councilman Avella Weighs In


A bill introduced to the NY State Senate last year is getting some support from Councilmember Tony Avella tomorrow. At 1pm, Avella will be on the steps of the City Hall to announce that he’s introducing a resolution in support of the bill, which would ban the practice of force-feeding, which is employed to fatten the livers of ducks and geese. Basically, the resolution has no legislative teeth—it’s meant to be nudge (or a jab) to the senators in Albany, encouraging them move the bill forward.

I gave Councilmember Avella a call to talk to him about the resolution. In particular, I was curious to know why this issue should get any traction in New York—there are only 2 foie gras farms in New York, while there are scores more factory farms in the state and the nation, where conditions are arguably far crueler than those at foie gras farms.

How did this resolution come about, and what does it say?

A couple years ago, a Columbia student, who is actually going to be at the press conference, brought the issue to my attention. He knew I had been active in animal rights issues, and he called one day, made an appointment, and came in with a video depicting this force feeding. The more research I did, the more I thought he was right.

So this resolution is to support the legislation that’s pending in the State Senate to ban force-feeding. There are two farms in New York state, I believe, that do this. They open the birds’ mouths forcefully, and they forcibly blow huge amounts of feed into the animal to artificially enlarge the liver.

And people should understand, this isn’t a full ban, but to prohibit this inhumane treatment. Let the animal feed normally, and end this awful practice of forcing food down the throat by the metal tube. It’s disgraceful, when you see these videos taken under cover…You don’t have to be someone involved in animal rights to say that this isn’t right. Animal cruelty is inappropriate and action should be taken.

What is the status of the bill in the Senate?

It’s not moving, and that’s what I hope to change by introducing this resolution. I hope to send a message to Albany, saying they should take action. We’re hoping that this will start a movement in the city; people need to be educated about this practice.

Why do you think the bill in the Senate hasn’t moved forward?

I think there’s a sense of, “Oh, they’re trying to ban some sort of food…” But that’s not true; we’re trying to ban the inhumane practice of force-feeding.

I heard about a farmer in Spain who is producing foie gras without force-feeding—so you’d be okay with that?

That’s fine.

A critic might say that foie gras production gets a lot of attention, but that other factory farming practices are actually much crueler and far more widespread. How do you respond?

Those issues haven’t been brought to my attention yet and my door is always open. When people bring me an issue, I have an open mind and if I agree, I’ll help them. Part of being an elected official is listening, and if something is important to the people of New York, and I agree, I’ll do something about it.