Foie gras ban overturned

May 14, 2008 8:42:46 PM PDT
The Chicago ban on foie gras has been repealed.Mayor Richard M. Daley and his allies forced that measure through the city council Wednesday without allowing debate. The mayor once called it the silliest ordinance ever passed by the city council.

The debate is over whether it is humane to use a tube force feed a duck to fatten up its liver. But on Wednesday, it was a Chicago alderman who got muzzled as he tried to speak up for his feathered friends.

"Today it could happen to me, tomorrow it could happen to you. All we were asking for was a simple debate on the issue," said Ald. Joe Moore.

Four minutes is how long it took the city council to raise and repeal Chicago's foie gras ban.

"I ask you to respect the members of the council and allow us to debate the ordinance!" Moore shouted.

"Keep calling," Daley said.

Mayor Daley and his allies steamrolled Moore's attempt to keep his pet project from going up in flames. For more than a year, it's been illegal for restaurants to cook up and sell duck and goose liver. Animal activists say the birds are inhumanely force-fed to make the fancy food.

But others ridiculed the city that was once the hog butcher to the world for suddenly going soft. Perhaps that's why the mayor and other aldermen used procedural moves and, at one point, a silenced microphone to avoid debate and put the ban behind them.

"All we were asking for is a simple debate on the issue. Thank you, Mr. President," said Moore, 49th Ward.

"Thank you, Ald. Joe 'Foie Gras' Moore," Daley responded.

"Let's talk kangaroo court. We just had a kangaroo legislative session today," Moore said.

"I'm not for animal cruelty. I don't eat foie gras, but I don't think it's the council's place to ban specific foods in restaurants," said Ald. Brian Doherty, 41st Ward.

Mayor Daley has called the foie gras ban ridiculous, just like the prices restaurants charge for the stuff.

"They can put it in your salad for $20, put it on some toast and charge you $10 for a piece of toast. Does that make sense? This is what government should be doing, telling you what to put on your toast," Daley said.

French chef Didier Durand trotted out his pet duck Nicola to celebrate the city council's new found c'est la vie attitude. "If you don't like fois gras, just have smoked salmon," said Durand, Cyrano chef.

Mayor Daley's staff says this issue has been talked about for nearly three years. So there was no need for further debate. Foie gras will be back on the menu June 11.

For the record, Chef Didier's duck is a pet. It's not destined for the dining room table.

The original measure went into effect in August 2006.

The reverse measure passed Wednesday by a vote of 37-6 with no debate.

The Illinois Restaurant Association and a local restaurant had filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn the ban, but a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the effort last June.

At Copper Blue, the foie gras is sliced and ready to be served now that the foie gras ban is on its way out.

"I couldn't be happier. I'm very relieved to move on and let my clientele start doing things above board. And we don't have to play games anymore," said Chef Michael Tsonton, owner. Tsonton's "games" meant secretly keeping it on the menu, coyly calling the dish, "It isn't Foie Gras any Moore."

"Once you get into every menu, every menu item with food, we would be here forever every day, debating all types of issues with all types of food and that's not the role of the city council," said Daley.

"Quite frankly, for the mayor to fail to recognize me to debate the merit's of this issue is the height of arrogance," said Moore.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement Wednesday, saying in part, that the ban was repealed "in a secretive, rushed bow to special interests that benefit from the cruel treatment of animals."

At Copper Blue, patrons see it differently.

"I have a friend who cares to eat it; I don't. But it's up to us; it's our choice," said Tubie Gilmore.

Some restaurants never stopped serving foie gras during the ban.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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