New York’s City Council is on the verge of banning sales of foie gras in gourmet stores and restaurants, a move its members say will help end inhumane force-feeding of ducks and geese to obtain their fatty livers.

The legislation is certain to be approved by a council vote Wednesday over the objections of farmers and restaurant owners who say it could kill about 400 jobs and wipe out a cottage industry. At least 29 of 51 members have signed on as sponsors.

“It’s crazy,” said Ken Oringer, who serves about 100 pounds of foie gras a week at Toro New York, one of seven restaurants he owns in the U.S., Thailand and Dubai. “We are talking about one of the classic fine dining experiences, a unique luxury from France made more affordable because these ducks are raised on local farms. The chickens these council members eat are raised a thousand times worse.”

About $50 million a year in sales is at stake, with a total economic impact of about $150 million, said Marcus Henley, who manages one of two duck farms in upstate New York’s Sullivan County. About a third of the market lies within New York City, and “if that’s removed, you have issues with overhead and other fixed costs, throwing into question the viability of the business,” he said.

Henley says he’s repeatedly invited City Council members to inspect the farms without response. Ducks are fed a liquid corn-based mixture three times a day through a six inch tube five-eighths of an inch wide, Henley said. Meanwhile, animal-rights advocates have distributed photographs he says are outdated showing birds force-fed through tubes shoved down their gullets.

“They are completely misrepresenting our farming practices,” he said.

Council members haven’t visited the farms because they doubt they would see the actual conditions under which ducks are raised, said Jeremy Unger, spokesman for Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Health Committee and has shepherded the bill toward passage.

“Force feeding is an inhumane practice, plain and simple,” Rivera said in an email. “Hundreds of veterinarians testified or submitted testimony acknowledging this fact at our hearing on the bill, with the only veterinarian claiming that foie gras was humane turning out to be a paid consultant for foie gras producers.”

The law, which would take effect in three years from enactment, would impose civil fines of between $500 to $2,000 on any food store or restaurant selling food derived from “the practice of forcing by any means food or supplements into the throat, esophagus, crop or stomach of an animal.” Each day’s continued violation would be treated as a separate offense, exposing the violator to additional fines.

The foie gras ban is part of a package of bills described as animal-rights legislation scheduled for a vote tomorrow, including measures to tighten restrictions on horse-drawn carriage use in extreme heat and humidity. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he’s sympathetic to the bills.

First « 1 2 » Next