Page 48 - Vallet Table - Spring 2020
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                                 Henley says there is no current alternative to force feeding that produces an equivalent product to what the duck farmers of Sullivan County offer.
A company in the Extramadura region of Spain run by farmer Eduardo Sousa and Diego Labourdette, an academic expert in the bird migration, markets “cruelty-free” foie gras. Migrating geese make a pit stop on the Sousa farm, where they roam freely, gorging themselves from a natural smorgasbord of acorns, olives, figs, and seeds, building up fat before they are ready to resume their northward journey and are slaughtered.
Meanwhile, scientists in France, the largest producer and consumer of foie gras in the world, announced
in December that they have developed a serum that, when squirted into a baby geese’s mouth, triggers the production of fat. The foie gras produced by this method is more expensive than the traditional variety, but “it’s the future because we see the animal welfare movement getting bigger and bigger,” geese farmer Valerie Fosserie told Reuters.
Henley scoffs at the Sousa enterprise, saying its product is not really foie gras. He points out that the farm produces only once a year and the geese livers it garners are smaller than those produced by force feeding. He doesn’t buy into Fosserie’s method, either. "The idea that giving bacteria to newborn ducklings will sometime in the future make them produce foie gras is snake oil."
Citing a 2014 report from the American Veterinary Medical Society, Henley says there is no current alternative to force feeding that produces an equivalent product to what the duck farmers of Sullivan County offer.
The New York City law’s effective date was pushed back three years to give the farms time to adjust their business models. However, the grace period doesn’t offer a “clear path” to replace what HVFG has built over 37 years, Henley says.
HVFG has a small chicken-processing operation, but it wouldn’t survive as a stand-alone business against larger, more efficient competitors, says Henley. It is seeking
out new markets for its foie gras, but competition from European producers is fierce.
The Sullivan County farms insist that the City lacks the constitutional authority to regulate “wholesome agricultural products” permitted by the state and federal government, and wonder what food it will target next. They are convinced that the federal courts will rule for them in the litigation they plan to file.
“This fight is not merely about foie gras; this is about our liberty to choose what we eat,” says Saravia, “and for duck farmers like myself, it is also about our right to make a living.”
HVFG, La Belle, and the Sullivan County Legislature have already asked the state Agriculture Commissioner to invoke against New York City a provision of state law intended to protect farmers against local laws which unreasonably restrict farm operations located within an agricultural district.
Jeremy Unger, spokesperson for Council member Rivera, says the ban was subjected to multiple levels of legal review, and it is confident it will follow California in standing up to any challenges. v
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