Chicago City Council Reverses Ban on Foie Gras

by Jennifer Martin

Foie gras (pronounced “fwah grah”), a gourmet liver dish, made the news in 2006 when the Chicago City Council passed a resolution to ban it from local restaurants. That decision was met with widespread jeering, particularly in the press. On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council unfortunately reversed the ban under pressure from Mayor Daley. It will be left to us animal lovers to spread the word about why people of good conscience, including meat-eaters, avoid this dish.

Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is a dish made by force-feeding ducks and geese massive amounts of grain. Their livers expand to up to 10 times their normal size, causing painful and sometimes fatal injuries that have long been documented by avian veterinarians and pathologists. Birds are known to choke or bleed to death after force-feedings; many suffer fractured bones from the weight gain.

While Chicago restaurant owners insisted that an outright ban on foie gras was extreme, what many didn’t realize is that foie gras has been banned in more than 15 countries, including Israel, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany and Italy. The injuries that foie gras birds suffer are considered too extreme to justify a rare and expensive dish that is enjoyed by only a few people. In a Zogby poll, 79 percent of Illinois residents supported a ban on foie gras when told about how the dish was made.

The great news is, dozens of restaurants around Chicago, and nationwide, have pledged to keep foie gras off their menus. They include famed chefs Charlie Trotter and Wolfgang Puck. Beyond this, many major grocery store and gourmet food chains have taken foie gras out of their stores. To see a list, go to nofoiegras.org and click on “Endorsements.”

If you visit these restaurants or stores, tell them you’re specifically there because they’ve taken the humane step of banning foie gras. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in changing the world for the better. Ultimately, market forces will eliminate this cruel dish from our menus.

Guest writer Jennifer Martin is a freelance journalist in Chicago.