Lawsuit Filed to Stop California's Foie Gras Ban

The California Foie Gras Ban went into effect on July 1, has prompted action from displeased businesses.

California banned the French delicacy of foie gras, or fattened duck liver, in 2004. The law finally went into effect in July 2012. (Photo: Steven Morris Photography via Getty Images)

Jul 5, 2012
Kelly Zhou has written on a variety of topics for TakePart, predominantly politics, education, and wildlife.

California’s foie gras ban is barely a week old, and already the dining drama is taking another turn: the San Francisco Chronicle reports that a group of businesses filed a lawsuit Monday asking a federal court to block the ban.

A foie gras producer and a duck-farming trade organization joined a Los Angeles restaurant group to challenge the California ban, just one day after it took effect in California on July 1.

A quick recap for those who haven’t been following the foie gras controversy: in 2004, California passed a law banning the French delicacy of fatty duck liver because the production process force-feeds ducks excessive amounts of grain and engorges their livers — what many animal activists and critics consider torture.

The law was delayed from going into effect until July 2012 to give chefs and those in the industry time to adjust accordingly. However, in recent months, chefs have been protesting the law, stating it would create a black market for the delicacy and proposing instead better regulations that would allow for the humane production of foie gras.

The Chronicle reported that Michael Tenenbaum, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said he plans to ask for a preliminary injunction to “freeze the law” until the court decides on the issue.

The lawsuit says the ban defines ‘force feeding’ as using a process that causes a bird ‘to consume more food than a typical bird of the same species would consume voluntarily.’

However, this definition is vague and it is difficult to know at what point a bird may have been fed too much food, the lawsuit argues. Another claim is that the law is a burden on foreign commerce and interferes with the ability to negotiate with foreign countries.

In the meantime, it seems unlikely that the law will be heavily enforced, according to a San Francisco Examiner article. Representatives from both San Francisco’s and Los Angeles’ police departments did not express plans to send squad cars out to fine dining establishments to enforce the ban.

What’s your take on the issue: do you think the suit has merit, or is it a distraction to delay the ban? Let us know in the comments.

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