Foie Gras Banned in California -- Again

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 19, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Unless you are a specialty chef, you may not care whether the liver pate you prepare comes from a duck or a goose.

The ducks and the geese certainly don't have an opinion on the subject of "foie gras," which is the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened.

But the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say foie gras comes from force-feeding the birds to make their livers swell up to 10 times their normal size. A federal appeals court said that's against the law in California.

Banned Again

California legislators voted to ban foie gras in 2004, but gave restaurants a grace period to comply. After 2011, they faced a $1,000 for selling the product.

Restaurateurs and foie gras producers sued, however, and won an injunction against the law in 2015. A federal judge said it was superseded by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act, which sets standards for labeling, packing and ingredient requirements.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the district court judge. The appeals court reversed and reinstated the ban, which will become effective in two weeks unless there is an appeal.

"It is not the livers that are force-fed, it is the birds," Judge Jacqueline Nguyen of the appeals court wrote. "The difference between foie gras produced with force-fed birds and foie gras produced with non-force-fed birds is not one of ingredient. Rather, the difference is in the treatment of the birds while alive."

"Don't Eat It"

TV Chef Eric Greenspan told the Los Angeles Times that the decision was "just crazy."

"Don't eat it if you don't want to, but don't impede on anyone's rights to do what they want to do," he said. "Let's ban assault rifles before we ban foie gras if you want to talk about cruelty."

For PETA, it was a win for the birds and people who care about them.

"PETA has protested against this practice for years, showing videos of geese being force-fed that no one but the most callous chefs could stomach and revealing that foie gras is torture on toast," said David Perle.

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