Animal rights activists sue biggest US foie gras distributor

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NEW YORK (AP) — A day after the New York City Council voted to ban the sale of foie gras, animal rights activists sued the biggest U.S. distributor of the French delicacy for alleged inhumane treatment of ducks.

Voters For Animal Rights, a New York-based nonprofit, filed the lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court late Thursday. Activists accuse Union, New Jersey-based D'Artagnan, Inc. and D'Artagnan, LLC of "deceptive marketing and advertising of foie gras products," made from fattened duck livers.

The company says birds at two farms outside New York City are fed in a humane way through a plastic tube workers slip down their throats. About two hours north of the city, the Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle collectively raise 350,000 birds a year, selling the livers for about $15 million, plus duck byproducts. Each worker feeds hundreds of them a day, squirting soft corn-based feed into each one through the beak every eight hours.

D'Artagnan issued a statement late Friday calling the lawsuit "frivolous."

"If their concerns are truly with animal welfare, they should focus their efforts on large factory farms, where there are real concerns," the company said. "We're confident that the justice system will see this lawsuit for what it is."

But supporters of the bill that passed Wednesday say the force-feeding involves animal cruelty, enlarging livers as much as 10 times the normal size in an animal so heavy its breathing becomes labored. According to the lawsuit, the ducks used in D'Artagnan products "are raised in inhumane conditions." Thousands of birds are kept in massive barns with no access to the outdoors and their natural environment, the suit says.

Selling foie gras in New York City restaurants and gourmet groceries will be illegal starting in 2022.

Voters For Animal Rights, based in Brooklyn, seeks no monetary damages, only "an injunction to end D'Artagnan's deceptive marketing and advertising practices."

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