2014 California Ban
Foie Gras, which means fatty liver in French, is a delicacy consisting of “fattened” liver from a duck or goose. The liver becomes artificially fattened through force-feeding, a method that is very controversal and staunchly opposed by animal rights groups.
Back in 2004, the state of California banned the force-feeding of birds for the purpose of enlarging their liver beyond normal size (SB 1520). This ban put an end to the foie gras business in California, but much to the disappointment of animal rights activists, the law would not take effect for almost 8 years, until 2012.
Ruling Overturns the Ban
After two and one-half years of a foie gras-free California, supporters of the ban suffered a devastating setback early this year when on January 7th U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson of the Central District of California overturned the ban. The ruling was a result of a lawsuit filed by foie gras producers in New York and Canada, and a California restaurant advocacy group.
In part, the ruling agreed with the plaintiff’s argument that federal law preempted SB 1520 and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has complete jurisdiction in regards to ingredients allowed in poultry products.
Shortly after the January ruling, California Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed the decision and the case is now scheduled to be heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Animal rights groups and activists are applauding the quick action taken by Attorney General Harris. Nathan Runkle, president and founder of Mercy for Animals, a group that advocates for cruel-free farming told the NY Daily News, “foie gras is the product of horrific cruelty to animals.” He praised AG Harris for her decision to “defend this important law and protect animals from being tortured for foie gras.”
Those who oppose the foie gras ban argue that banning the delicacy is a case of government overreach into personal freedom. The Artisan Farmers Alliance, an advocate group for “artisanal farming” says there is much disinformation regarding the production of foie gras and that they are “working both to educate the public about our centuries-old farming practices and to defend the rights of consumers to make their own decisions about food.”
All The Way to the Supreme Court.
Baring this issue going all the way to the Supreme Court, it looks like the Ninth Circuit will finally have the last word on this on-again, off-again foie gras ban controversy. And whatever they decide is sure to ruffle some feathers.
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