Chicago was the first. On April 26, the Chicago City Council voted 48 to 1 to outlaw the sale of foie gras. Foie gras production is also prohibited or restricted in Israel, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, and several other European countries. In 2004 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill to ban the production and sale of foie gras in the state, starting in 2012. Politicians in New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Oregon have proposed similar legislation.
Like chickens and turkeys, ducks and geese are not covered by the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the only federal law that offers any sort of protection to farmed animals. Birds raised for foie gras are normally confined to cages and fed a high-protein, high-starch diet that is designed to promote rapid growth. Farmers begin force feeding the birds when they are between 8 and 10 weeks old. For 12 to 21 days, up to 2 pounds of grain and fat is forced down ducks and geese' throats every day by a feeding tube, a process known as gavage.
The birds' livers become engorged and can expand as much as 12 times their normal size, so much so that they protrude from the animals' bellies. The birds have difficulty standing, and become so stressed that they tear out their own feathers. Many suffer from internal hemorrhaging, fungal and bacterial infections, and hepatic encephalopathy, a brain ailment caused when their livers fail.
His Holiness Benedict XVI has condemned foie gras, and many restaurants and hotels in no longer offer it. The Smithsonian Institution previously canceled a lecture seminar on foie gras, the Boston Symphony Orchestra removed foie gras from its Tanglewood Wine and Food Classic, and Williams-Sonoma stopped selling foie gras in its catalog. Even before the ban was announced, famous chef Charlie Trotter refused to serve foie gras in his Chicago restaurant.
Few people find it acceptable to cause such grotesque suffering for the sake of a "delicacy." It's time to ban foie gras, not just in Philadelphia, but everywhere.