Veterinary Professional Support for New York City’s Intro 1378 to Prohibit Sale of Foie Gras from Force-Fed Birds


On behalf of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), a national organization of more than 9,000 veterinary professional members with a focus on animal health and welfare, we convey our strong support for New York City Intro 1378. This bill, introduced by Council Member Carlina Rivera, would prohibit the sale of foie gras from force-fed ducks and geese. Joining with HSVMA, several individual licensed New York veterinary professionals have also signed this letter of support.

Foie gras is a luxury food produced by inserting a pipe down the esophagus and inhumanely force-feeding ducks or geese up to several times daily, in order to intentionally induce hepatic lipidosis, a disease state of liver enlargement. The fatty livers, which can be enlarged 10 times past their normal size, are then sold as a delicacy. Serious health ramifications to the birds can include esophageal trauma, difficulty breathing, mobility problems, aspiration, liver hemorrhage, and even cardiac or renal failure.

There is significant scientific evidence to support ending force-feeding in the foie gras industry:

The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare of the European Commission declared that “[T]here is good evidence that liver structure and function…is severely altered and compromised in force-fed ducks and geese. [The Committee] concludes that force-feeding, as currently practiced, is detrimental to the welfare of the birds.”

Additionally, several well-respected veterinarians and animal welfare experts have attested to the harm caused by force-feeding ducks and geese:

  • "Due to the enormous size of the livers … the birds have no room for their air sacs to fill with oxygen … analogous to feeling as if one is [being smothered].” -Dr. Holly Cheever, DVM, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association

  • “The practice of force-feeding amounts of food far beyond the limits of the duck’s need to eat causes pain and suffering. Ducks are highly capable of feeling pain, especially in the throat area. They have a gag reflex that would be overcome by the tube insertion, and this would cause distress in the bird.” - Dr. Debra Teachout, DVM, MVS

  • “Force-feeding in the foie gras industry is inherently cruel. … This feeding beyond what the ducks would eat normally causes hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, which impairs liver function. Severe liver impairment can lead to conditions like enlargement of the liver, fluid in the abdomen and eventually death.”  - Dr. Lorelei Wakefield, VMD

  • “In my opinion, [force-feeding] is cruel and inhumane, as it involves rough, invasive handling and can result in trauma and injuries to the esophagus. The process overrides the natural system of hunger and satiety and the birds in the video appear to be frightened and distressed - they move immediately away from the handler as soon as they are released.” - Dr. Sara Shields, PhD, an animal welfare expert with an emphasis in poultry

  • “[T]he process of force-feeding birds in order to deliberately induce a disease state is patently inhumane, causing severe physical pain and psychological distress.” - Dr. Lee Schrader, DVM

Establishing an animal cruelty offense to discourage foie gras production and prohibit its sale from force-fed ducks and geese is a common-sense reform that advances the welfare of animals.

We strongly encourage members of the New York City Council to co-sponsor and pass Intro 1378.


Eileen Jefferson, DVM

New York State Representative, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA)

Holly Cheever, DVM

Vice President, New York State Humane Association (NYSHA)

and Leadership Council, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA)

Joined by the following New York veterinary professionals:

John Green, DVM

Michal Hess, DVM – Glendale, NY

Susan Whittred, DVM – Rockaway, NY

Wendy Ip, BVetMed – New York, NY

Dr. Vanessa Spano, DVM, AVSAB - New York, New York

Gloria Tulliu, DVM – Queens, NY

Gretchen Cawein, DVM – New York, NY

Andrew Kaplan, DVM – New York, NY

Justin Lamb, Brooklyn, NY

Anne Marie McPartlin, veterinary technician

Deanna Price, veterinary technician

Denise Shea, veterinary technician

Alysa Cook, DVM

Dr. Steven Marvin Bruck

Dr. Tim Patrick Vleuten

Emily Margaret Hirsch, veterinary student

Joelle Stingone, veterinary technician

Kara Abbott, veterinary student

Kim Keane, veterinary technician

Kristen Cameron Schott, veterinary student

Dr. Pam Shultz

Dr. Pamela Perry

Dr. Pratikshya Patil

Michelle Brownstein, DVM

Rudy E. Zamora, DVM

Dr. Adriana Pena

Dr. Amy J. Scarpinato

Dr. Betty Garcia Nussbaum

Dr. Danielle Pugliese

Dr. Dennis Dougherty

Dr. Elizabeth Alexander

Dr. Elizabeth O. Higgins

Dr. Eva Armfield

Dr. Hyunmin Kim

Dr. Jenny Ripka

Dr. Jeri Cheraskin

Dr. John Glenn Hynes

Dr. John Wendell Green

Dr. Kathleen Makolinski

Dr. Lawrence Silberg

Dr. Lena DeTar

Dr. Linda Hunter

Dr. Lisa Hara Levin

Dr. Lucia A. Roberts

Dr. Lynn Santors

Dr. Margaret B. Ohlinger

Dr. Marie Butcher

Dr. Mary Catherine Dryoff

Michelle White, DVM

Jill Epstein, veterinary technician