Photo Credit: Ruth Temple via Flickr
Foie gras restaurant in France

Farmers and animal-rights activists on Tuesday hollered at one another throughout a day of New York City Council hearing over a proposed prohibition on the sale of foie gras, with fines as high as $1,000 imposed on violators, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The new bill’s sponsor, Manhattan councilwoman Carlina Rivera, told NY1 that “animal rights and making sure that we have a cruelty-free New York City is definitely a priority of mine.”

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But Rich Bishop, former marketing director at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, told NY1 that “cage-free foie gras that’s raised by hand feeding, in a slow, methodical fashion with care, produces a top quality product. We will show anybody how it’s done.”

So reminiscent of Monty Python’s “Crunchy Frog” sketch, where Terry Jones describes the process of preparation: “Oh, we use only the finest baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and sealed in a succulent, Swiss, quintuple-smooth, treble-milk chocolate envelope, and lovingly frosted with glucose.”

French law defines foie gras as the liver of a duck or goose fattened by force-feeding corn with a feeding tube, a process known as “gavage.” The same French law states that “Foie gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France.”

Foie gras production results in the bird’s liver being swollen to 1,000% its normal size, impairing liver function due to obstructing blood flow, and expanding the abdomen making it difficult for the birds to breathe. In 4% of cases, death results – compared to 0.2% in birds that are not force-fed.

Leading Israeli Rabbis, including Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Tzvi Pesach Frank (d. 1960) and the Chazon Ish (d. 1953), opposed force-feeding geese in the Land of Israel. Late Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ruled that force-feeding geese should not be permitted due to animal cruelty and kashrut problems. The kashrut problem may have to do with the fact that so many geese die from the forced-feeding and growers may be tempted to sell their liver even though the bird is traif.

According to Kosher Today, a company that produced kosher foie gras went bankrupt in late 2018, at which point, according to Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the COO of the OU Kashrus Division, the OU no longer certifies Foie gras. He didn’t mention halachic reasons for the move (cruelty to animals is prohibited by Jewish law, unless… to be followed by numerous exceptions).

It appears that Jewish American kosher consumers simply dislike the controversial food, ergo the collapse of its maker. Kosher Today says European upscale kosher restaurants continue to serve it (see French law above).

PETA, Viva!, and the Humane Society of the United States say foie gras production methods, especially force-feeding, constitute cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.

Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant chain in 2013 ended its contract with a food supplier that sold foie gras.

In 2017, foie gras production was banned in Brussels, Belgium.

We checked the ten top Top foie gras joints in Antwerp, Belgium, and are happy to report none of them is kosher.

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