Brooklyn Boro

Big day for birds as City Council outlaws foie gras and ends pigeon trafficking

October 31, 2019 Alex Williamson
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The City Council passed two bills Wednesday to make life a little better for the city’s birds. One outlawed the sale of foie gras and another imposes stiff penalties on trappers caught illegally netting wild birds to be used in out-of-state pigeon shoots.

The foie gras ban passed by a vote of 42-6, and outlaws the sale of the dish made from the liver of force-fed ducks or geese. The delicacy is already illegal in California and a handful of European Union countries. New York City’s ban will go into effect in 2022.

“We should never try to become California. We are New York,” said Michael O’Keefe, owner of the River Café, where foie gras is on the menu. “All these animals that people eat at Burger King, McDonald’s and Chick Fil-A … are not brought up wonderfully or running around in some kind of green pastured paradise,” he added.

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The bird trafficking bill was passed 43-5. The law is meant to penalize pigeon-nabbers taking wild birds off New York City streets and transporting them out of state, where they’re released and shot en masse at organized pigeon shoots.

“They toss seed out on the street and then trap the birds in a net,” said Rita McMahon, director of the Wild Bird Fund, a Manhattan-based bird rescue organization. She said the birds are typically transported to Pennsylvania, where pigeon shoots are legal.

“It’s a terrible thing,” said McMahon.

Trapping wild birds in New York City was already illegal, but the new bill makes it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

The bill was sponsored by Manhattan Councilmember Carlina Rivera.

Bushwick-based animal activist Rocky Schwartz said she was heartened by both measures.

“I routinely see just how deeply the public cares for those animals suffering in front of them and it is time the city’s laws extend that consideration to animals who are out of sight and out of mind,” Schwartz told the Brooklyn Eagle in an email.

Other animal friendly legislation passed by the City Council Wednesday includes a bill that makes it illegal to make carriage horses work when it’s over 90 degrees outside and a bill that establishes an Office of Animal Welfare.

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