On one side, we have virtue-signaling Manhattan leftists. On the other, we have working-class people trying to survive through honest labor. On whose side will the New York Times come down? If you guessed virtue-signaling leftists, it means you have occasionally read that rag. But this story about the New York City Council’s ban on serving foie gras in the city’s restaurants is surprisingly balanced:
Last October, when the New York City Council passed a ban on foie gras as inhumane, Mayor Bill de Blasio called foie gras “a luxury item that the vast majority of us would never be able to afford.”
But two hours northwest of the city, in one of New York’s poorest counties, foie gras plays a much different role. There, it is not a luxury splurge but a domino in a fragile local economy. Almost all of the foie gras produced in the United States comes from two duck farms in Sullivan County, where about 400 workers, mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America, rely on it for their livelihood.
Some of those workers are illegal immigrants, which perhaps accounts for the Times’s sympathy. But I, too, would come down on the side of those who produce duck livers for the enjoyment of Manhattan palates.
The ban singles out a community that is already struggling, said Jen Metzger, a state senator and chairwoman of the committee on agriculture, who said she invited City Council members to visit the farms before voting on the ban but got no takers.
“These farms are connected to the feed mill, the towing and tractor companies, the local banks,” Metzger said. “They add $300,000 into the local school system in property taxes. As legislators, we have to think of all the consequences of the actions we take.”
That is a novel idea that will not catch on in the New York City Council.
Inside one of the farm’s boxy buildings, Emilia León, 50, considered what the ban might mean to her family. León has worked at the farm since she arrived from Puebla, Mexico, in 1997. Like most workers interviewed for this article, she speaks little English and was interviewed through an interpreter. Her husband and daughter also work at the farm. They live rent-free on the property.
León feared for what might happen next if the farm closes down. “I don’t know where we’ll go,” she said. “We’re older, so for us it’s going to be difficult to find a job because they give priority to young people.”
These are the sort of people that nowadays, only Republicans care about.
Foie gras, which means “fatty liver” in French, is produced by force-feeding male Moulard ducks — a sterile hybrid of Pekin and Muscovy ducks — through a tube shoved down their throats three times a day during the last three weeks of their lives, a process known as gavage, which expands their livers to 10 times their normal size.
León feeds about 500 ducks in a three-hour shift.
Opponents of foie gras call the force-feeding process cruel. It’s already banned in India, Israel and Britain. Whole Foods stopped selling the product in 1997, and Postmates stopped delivering it in 2018. The American Veterinary Medical Association takes a neutral position, citing a lack of evidence that birds are harmed by the process, although many veterinarians disagree.
The ducks are about to be killed. I am not sure how they are “harmed,” unless there is evidence of physical suffering that the Times article omits. The Times quotes the author of the proposed foie gras ban, who says force-feeding the ducks is an “inhumane process,” done “for a purely luxury product.”
Of course, the workers whose incomes depend on the ducks’ value aren’t concerned about the fact that foie gras is a luxury:
For the workers, foie gras is a delicacy for a population they rarely see. Nancy Velázquez, 32, a butcher on the assembly line, said she did not resent the people who can afford it. “Just the fact that they’re eating, they give us an opportunity to get ahead in life, and that is a help,” she said.
I don’t think a single Power Line reader will be surprised by the fact that a butcher on the farm’s assembly line makes more sense than the liberals on the New York City Council. Finally:
“To them it’s easy because they’re in the city,” said Edith Cruz, who works at La Belle and cares for her disabled husband in a trailer that was once the Saravia family’s home. “But we’re here in the mountains, and we need those jobs. I don’t think it’s animal abuse, but everyone has their own opinion.”
As is usually the case, the opinions of those who are farthest removed and least well informed will count the most. But I give the Times credit for a surprisingly well-balanced news story.