Chicago lifts two-year ban on foie gras

CHICAGO Thu May 15, 2008 5:38am EDT

Duck liver is displayed at French Restaurant, Jean Ramet, in Bordeaux, southwestern France, March 31, 2006. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Duck liver is displayed at French Restaurant, Jean Ramet, in Bordeaux, southwestern France, March 31, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Regis Duvignau

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Gourmets in Chicago can order foie gras again after the city council on Wednesday repealed a two-year restaurant ban on a delicacy that critics say is produced at cruel expense to geese and ducks.

The aldermen voted 37-6 to drop the ban on restaurants serving foie gras, an ordinance that had passed with a single dissenting vote in April 2006.

The city had issued a few warnings to restaurants for flouting the ban and one defiant eatery was fined.

Mayor Richard Daley had called the ban the "silliest ordinance" the city council ever passed and said it made Chicago "the laughingstock of the nation."

Animal rights groups decry foie gras as a product of inhumane treatment as it is made by force-feeding geese and ducks through a steel pipe put down their throats, expanding their livers to 10 times normal size.

In 2004, California passed a law that will end the production and sale of foie gras in the state in 2012. Similar laws have been proposed in a few other states.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals criticized Chicago's move to overturn the ban.

"This is industry's dirty political manoeuvring at its worst," the group said in a statement.

"Today, that compassionate decision was reversed in a secretive, rushed bow to special interests that benefit from the cruel treatment of animals. It goes against what the vast majority of Chicagoans believe in."

Some restaurant owners, whose association lobbied for the ban's repeal, worried that other items such as lobster, veal and even eggs could be barred from their menus.

"I thought it was us sticking our nose in something we probably shouldn't have even been in," Alderman Dick Mell told the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, adding that veal calves and chickens also suffer in confinement.

"There's some cruelty out there, folks."

(Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

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