Wednesday, July 2, 2008

City says ‘non’ to foie gras

Council passes resolution against production and sale of French delicacy made by overfeeding ducks and geese

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Calling the force-feeding of ducks and geese an extreme form of animal cruelty, the Takoma Park City Council on Monday unanimously passed a resolution opposing the production and sale of foie gras, a dish made from the birds’ enlarged livers.

Some council members went so far as to say the city should make it illegal to sell or even eat the traditional French delicacy in Takoma Park, but officials said the city attorney would have to explore whether such a prohibition would be within the city’s legal authority.

Mayor Bruce Williams said he was unaware of any local restaurants that served foie gras, but said the council passed the resolution in order to raise awareness about the practice, which is illegal in many European countries and Israel, and will become illegal in California in 2012.

A small number of Takoma Park residents, including representatives of local animal rights groups, spoke in favor of the resolution Monday.

Foie gras, or ‘‘fatty liver,” is made by force-feeding caged ducks or geese through tubes inserted down their throat several times a day for 12 to 15 days until their livers become enlarged many times their ordinary size. The goal is to increase the amount of fat in the animal’s liver from about 5 percent to more than 50 percent in order to give it a rich and fatty taste.

Erica Meier, a city resident who is executive director of the Takoma Park-based nonprofit animal rights group Compassion Over Killing, said that if dogs or cats were subjected to the same type of treatment, ‘‘it would lead to criminal prosecution.”

‘‘By passing this resolution tonight, Takoma Park has the opportunity to take a proactive and compassionate step by sending a message that this form of animal abuse is too appalling for any civilized society to condone,” Meier said.

But some Takoma Park residents do eat foie gras. Carol Blymire, an amateur chef who keeps a blog of her own culinary adventures, said Tuesday that she thinks the dish is delicious.

‘‘I’ve served it here at home to a number of friends who all happen to be Takoma Park residents, and they loved it,” she wrote in an e-mail. On her blog she includes a recipe for whole roasted moulard duck foie gras with apples and black truffles, which she described as ‘‘a huge hit.”

Blymire called the City Council resolution ‘‘another example of Takoma Park’s self-inflicted reputation that we’re a bunch of wackadoos that care more about the symbolic and dramatic.”

On Monday, Councilman Josh Wright (Ward 1) said that if the city opposes the practice, it should outlaw producing or serving the dish in Takoma Park, even though he and other members of the council agreed that such a ban would be impossible to enforce.

‘‘I’m not sure if we actually legally have the ability to ban the sale,” said City Manager Barbara Burns Matthews, who added that city staff would discuss it with the city attorney and, if such a ban is within the city’s authority, bring it back to the council as an amendment to Monday’s resolution.

Councilwoman Colleen Clay (Ward 2) said she would support a ban on selling foie gras in city restaurants and supermarkets, ‘‘but I don’t think I could go with supporting a ban on eating it, although I think it’s disgusting.”

Councilman Dan Robinson (Ward 3) questioned the need for the City Council to spend time discussing such an issue.

‘‘I’ve heard from constituents that we could spend our energy elsewhere with better effect,” he said, ‘‘specifically with environmental issues.”

Other than the statewide California ban that will take effect in 2012 under legislation signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in 2004, there are currently no laws banning the dish’s sale in the United States. In May, Chicago, the first American city to have such a ban, lifted its prohibition two years after it was put into place.