A Buttery Luxury or Cruelty on a Plate?

The buttery fatty liver delicacy foie gras is created by inserting a tube down the throat of a waterfowl, usually a duck, and pumping partially cooked corn down its esophagus. But it won't be served for long in Chicago.

The city, known by many as a tough, steak-eating haven, decided it was inhumane to force-feed the birds. Today's measure, passed in the city council 49 to 0, prohibits restaurants from serving foie gras in the city, and will take effect Aug. 22.

"Our city is better for taking a stance against the cruelty of foie gras," said Alderman Joe Moore, who sponsored the ordinance.

A little over a year ago, chef Charlie Trotter decided to take foie gras off his menu because of the way it is produced on farms. The controversy might have stopped there, but it brought the force-feeding of ducks to the attention of Moore, who said he was horrified.

"I thought, 'Why don't we extend the ban across the city?'" Moore said. "I was quite horrified when I learned how it was made."

'We Have Children Getting Killed By Gangs ... and We're Dealing With Foie Gras?'

Mayor Richard Daley opposed the measure and said the foie gras controversy should not have taken precedence over other issues facing Chicago.

"We have children getting killed by gang leaders and dope dealers. We have real issues here in this city. And we're dealing with foie gras?" said Daley, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times on its Web site. "Let's get some priorities. Our priorities should be children, the quality of education. It should be seniors. We should worry about the gas price. We should worry about the global economy."

But Moore said that just because there are "many challenging issues and horrible things happening to human beings in the city doesn't mean we can't speak out for animals."

A growing number of people, not just what some call radical animal-rights groups, have tried to make eating foie gras illegal. The very practice of selling it is the target of a flurry of state laws.

Massachusetts is considering a ban, and proposed bills made progress in Oregon and New York this year before losing steam. The Illinois Senate has unanimously passed a bill outlawing production in the state, which has never had a foie gras farm, and a proposal will soon be introduced in Hawaii.

The Worldwide Anti-Foie Gras Movement

Last year California became the first state to ban the sale and production of foie gras. But it gave a grace period to a California producer, one of just three foie gras farms; the other two are in New York state.

In an undercover investigation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals videotaped the force-feeding practice at one farm in New York. The video -- narrated by Roger Moore, the former "007 James Bond" actor and a man who personifies luxury for many Hollywood fans -- showed ducks crammed into sheds and others isolated in wire cages that were so small that they could barely move. It also showed barrels full of dead ducks who had choked to death or whose organs had ruptured during the feeding process. Others were being eaten alive by rats.

More than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, have banned production of the delicacy on the grounds of cruelty. But in France, foie gras has been declared "part of the cultural and gastronomic patrimony, protected in France."

In August 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that foie gras production violates Israeli anti-cruelty laws.