Nanny State

Keep Off the Gras

New Jersey v. Duck Liver


No one in the state of New Jersey produces foie gras, and no Garden State farmer has announced any plans to start force-feeding ducks or selling liver paté. But that hasn't stopped two members of the state Assembly from proposing legislation to regulate the process and ban the pricey snack.

Foie gras makers have been on the run in Europe and the U.S. for more than a decade. Before New Jersey got into the game, the process of producing the food had been banned in most of Western Europe, Poland, Finland, and Israel. In April 2006, the city of Chicago passed a ban on foie gras that drew immediate criticism from Mayor Richard M. Daley and local gourmet chefs.

Windy City restaurants protested by serving foie gras and other forbidden foods in August. But for New Jersey Assemblyman Michael Panter, the ban was an inspiration, not a provocation. He joined with fellow Democratic legislator Joan Voss to write a measure prohibiting "the force feeding of ducks, geese and other poultry for the production of foie gras" and began drafting another bill banning the production, distribution, and sale of foie gras anywhere in the state.

Panter, a vegetarian, has rebuffed concerns from a New Jersey–based distributor who supplies chefs in New York with foie gras produced elsewhere. When asked if the legislator might one day target other foods on the grounds of cruelty, Panter's office is noncommittal.

"I think this is one of the issues he'd like to address first," says spokesperson Kerri Danskin. "Overall, he's an advocate for animals."