On a recent Thursday, about 40 young professionals in work clothes shuffled up the stairs to Jivamukti and arranged themselves in one of the yoga studios. But they were not there to practice the pigeon pose. They were there to talk force-fed ducks, as part of the newly energized foie gras resistance. Over the past few years, protests in New York over the rich, velvety, and controversial bird livers have been limited to piecemeal pickets here and there. But emboldened by legislative victories in Chicago and California, groups like Farm Sanctuary, the League of Humane Voters, and the Humane Society of the United States have united locally under one No Foie Gras umbrella, hiring former Spitzer fund-raiser Lawrence Kopp and a full-time staffer to build a movement.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has come out for foie gras, leaving anti-foie forces to focus on Fairway, which hung a banner in December boasting FAIRWAY IS FOIE GRAS CENTRAL, belittling anti–foie gras activists. Protests there are planned every weekend starting February 11. “Ain’t no yogis eating foie gras,” says yogi Russell Simmons, who will hold an April 7 anti-foie fund-raiser at Jivamukti. “It’s barbaric, it’s crazy, people are sheep. Dominion over the animals does not mean we abuse them. I sit here and watch people eat steak and eat foie gras and do stupid shit all day long. I’m really not an angry vegan, but human beings are fucking rude.”
“If it weren’t so funny, it would be sad,” says Fairway partner Steven Jenkins, who claims the “foie gras weirdos” are “doing nothing more than preying on the guilt-ridden liberals of the Upper West Side.”
Meanwhile, foie gras manufacturers are licking their fingers. “Every time they protest, sales go up,” says Michael Ginor, co-founder of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, which employs over 150 people and slaughters 6,000 ducks a week. Foie gras production is a $20 million industry in New York State. “People who eat foie gras eat foie gras. They will not stop. What they’re doing is teaching a whole new group of people to eat foie gras. I guess it’s time for me to tell my guys to go pump things up.”