What the Foie? An Update on California's Foie Gras Ban

Submitted by Advocacy on Wed, 2013-02-13 17:20

Baby DucksCalifornia’s foie gras ban went into effect in July 2012, making the in-state sale and production of products derived from force-fed birds illegal. Today, the battle against this purported delicacy continues.

For determined consumers, such as Californians who travel to Nevada to buy foie gras, the banned product can still be found.  In addition to dining on the fattened liver, Californians who reportedly travel to Reno to attend foie gras tastings hosted by a loacl specialty food purveyor are also encouraged to stock up on foie gras for their home kitchens and dinner parties.

Some restaurants continue to plate foie gras by exploiting statutory loopholes in the ban. For example, Hot’s Kitchen in Los Angeles argues that it is serving the product and not selling it to consumers, by offering it for free to customers who purchase other pricey menu items. The legality of this approach will soon be tested, as PETA has filed a lawsuit against the restaurant for serving the banned food, arguing that steep prices for other food items suggest that foie gras sales are, in fact, being made. In addition, California restaurant-goers are rumored to still be able to dine on foie gras in certain restaurants by employing the “wink-and-nod” approach. Before facing strong public outcry, San Francisco’s Presidio Social Club kept foie gras on its menu by arguing that the restaurant, which sits in a national park under federal jurisdiction, is exempt from state law.

Shortly after the ban was enacted, Hudson Valley Foie Gras (a New York producer), Association des Éleveurs de Canards et d'Oies du Québec (a Canadian organization representing foie gras producers), and Los Angeles’ Hot’s Restaurant Group Inc. filed suit in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claiming that the ban is unconstitutional and vague and that it interferes with federal commerce laws. The judge denied the preliminary injunction that would have rendered the ban unenforceable; however, the case is expected to go to trial, unless a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the California Attorney General’s office is granted.

Finally, as can be expected when a humane food movement victory is won in front of an international audience, complaints in the aftermath of California’s foie gras ban continue to be reduced to senseless hyperbole. Among them include the absurd notion that nearly all the food that Americans consume today is inhumanely raised, so why even bother with foie gras?

The truth is that any time that political will demonstrates the value of compassionate food choices, it is a victory for animals. Importantly, the above challenges are the exception and not the norm in California, and no amount of misguided rhetoric or legal finagling will change the fact that the practice of gavage – the force feeding of grain through a suffering animal to create a liver ten times the size of a normal one – is not representative of California’s humane values.

Californians still seeking to serve and consume foie gras are, simply put, dining on the wrong side of history.