New York City recently joined California in passing legislation to prohibit the sale of foie gras, a controversial “delicacy” in French cuisine that has long been criticized by animal advocates for the cruel way in which it is made. Foie gras is produced via gavage, whereby ducks or geese are force-fed through feeding tubes in order to enlarge their livers 7–10 times the normal size. This can lead to a number of health and welfare problems, including injuries to the esophagus from the tube insertion, illnesses caused by reduced blood flow, and increased mortality.
After the California prohibition passed in 2004, a number of legal challenges resulted in the law first being struck down in 2015, then subsequently upheld in 2017. In January 2019, the US Supreme Court rejected the industry’s latest challenge to the California statute, allowing the prohibition to remain in effect. (See AWI Quarterly, spring 2019.) These laws have the potential to make a significant impact on animal welfare, as California and New York City are two of the largest markets for foie gras.