The PJ Tatler

Judge Strikes Down California's Foie Gras Ban

Yesterday, a federal judge overturned California’s ban on the sale of foie gras, also known as fatty duck and goose liver.

“U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson permanently blocked the state attorney general from enforcing part of the foie gras ban that took effect in 2012, finding that the federal government’s authority to regulate poultry products supersedes the state law.”

Foie gras is considered a delicacy, but the way in which the birds are fattened up in preparation is considered cruel by animal rights groups. (I agree, I don’t eat it anymore. But that’s my choice.) Opponents of the decision plan to appeal the decision.

California’s nanny state legislators voted to ban foie gras back in 2004; specifically, they banned the method of force feeding birds with a tube, which is how the ducks and geese get a fatty liver.  That part of the law was not challenged and still stands.

The issue that was successfully challenged in court was whether foie gras can be imported into restaurants and markets from other states, where the practice and methods of producing the food are not illegal. A judge had previously rejected the argument from the bill’s challengers that California cannot impose its regulations beyond the state. An appeals court upheld that ruling.

However, the lawsuit was amended to say that California’s state law was superseded by federal law, specifically the Federal Poultry Inspection Act. The FPIA prevents states from “imposing labeling, packaging or ingredient requirements different from federal standards.”

“California cannot regulate foie gras products’ ingredients by creatively phrasing its law in terms of the manner in which those ingredients were produced,” Wilson wrote.

Animal rights activists were not happy about the ruling.

“Foie gras production involves cruelty to animals that would warrant felony charges were dogs or cats the victims,” said Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary on behalf of a coalition of animal protection groups. “The idea that a ban on egregious cruelty on farms could be pre-empted by a law that applies exclusively to slaughterhouse operations and meat safety and labeling is exactly as ludicrous as it sounds.”

Foie gras is expected to be back on California menus on Thursday.