|By Gary Washburn, Chicago Tribune
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 26, 2005 -- After hearing a Hollywood actress compare the production of a delicacy made from the livers of geese and ducks to abuses at a notorious Iraqi prison, a City Council committee on Tuesday advanced a measure that would make Chicago a foie gras-free zone.
Only three farms in the U.S. produce foie gras, none of them in Illinois. And Ald. Joe Moore (49th), sponsor of the measure to ban its sale, acknowledged that "no more than a dozen or so" restaurants here probably have it on their menus.
But "laws are reflections of our values and morals," he asserted.
Moore hailed preliminary approval of the prohibition by the council's Health Committee, saying it will result in "fewer ducks and geese being tortured to create this product." And he said a ban here would "send a clear message" to other cities and states that may decide to consider similar measures.
The committee heard a New York veterinarian and activist describe how feeding pipes are "jammed down the esophaguses" of terrified birds that are force-fed three times a day to make their livers 10 times normal size to produce foie gras.
And committee members viewed a graphic video of bloodied birds that had undergone the process.
"If I sound a little out of breath, I am always overwhelmed listening to stories of abuse and torture," said actress and animal-rights advocate Loretta Swit, who testified in support of the ban.
The former star of the "M*A*S*H" television series contended that there are ties between what happened at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, where inmates were abused by U.S. soldiers, and what happens to ducks and geese whose livers are harvested for foie gras.
"Violence begets violence," she said. "Brutality begets brutality."
But Didier Durand, chef and owner at Cyrano's Bistrot, 546 N. Wells St., insisted that "there is no torture" in the production of the delicacy. And he told the skeptical aldermen that it is healthy to eat. Durand attributed low cholesterol levels and a low incidence of heart attacks in his native region of France to consumption of foie gras, which he said he sells to about 30 customers a week.
Cyrano's charges $15 for three-ounce servings.
Carrie Nahabedian, owner of Naha, 500 N. Clark St., predicted that a Chicago ban simply would push foie gras lovers to suburban restaurants.
Marcus Henley of Hudson Valley Foie Gras & Duck Products, gave committee members packets with what he said was scientific evidence that birds are not abused in foie gras production, and he invited an inspection.
But the aldermen were unmoved, and the ban proposal now goes to the full council for a vote next week.
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