PETA: If California Won’t Stop You From Selling Foie Gras, We Will

The animal rights group wants restaurants to obey the letter of the law.

Hot's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach is still serving foie gras. (Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

Californians are fighting over their food again.

Southern California-based Hot’s Kitchen is seemingly in hot water for trying to skirt the state’s ban on foie gras by offering up the delicacy as a complimentary side to its infamous “THE” burger. But animal rights activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says the tactic is in violation of the California law that took effect July 1, and has filed the state’s first lawsuit to enforce the ban.

“The idea that they’re giving this away for free is a childish and transparent way to avert the law. The only way to get complimentary foie gras is to buy the particular burger that it’s served with. That’s a sale plain and simple,” Jeff Kerr, general counsel to PETA, tells TakePart.

Hot’s Kitchen spokesperson Kelley Coughlan forwarded a statement that says as of 5 p.m. yesterday, the restaurant group has not been legally served with the lawsuit, and calls the move by PETA an outrageous publicity stunt. The statement refers questions to Cathy Kennedy, director of the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards, who told TakePart that the California ban on foie gras is illegal and cannot be enforced.

“It’s an invalid law,” she says.

Was Hot’s Restaurant specifically targeted by PETA because they’re part of a lawsuit that claims the ban on foie is unconstitutional and in violation of the commerce clause? Kerr says no.

“It has nothing to do with that lawsuit. We became aware of Hot’s illegally selling foie gras in violation of the state ban,” he said.

While Hot’s may be the only restaurant targeted in the current PETA lawsuit, it certainly isn’t alone in finding a way to offer foie gras to guests after the state ban went into effect. Eater reported earlier this summer that Los Angeles pop-up restaurant Kali Dining served a five-course foie gras dinner for a $95 donation. Presidio Social Club, located in a national park, claims it’s under federal jurisdiction, and offered guests foie gras sliders for $20. And in Mountain View, Calif., Executive Chef Joey Elenterio of Chez TJ restaurant offered it as a gift to customers who ordered the $130 tasting menu.

Many industry watchers expected the ban on foie gras to go unenforced, and so far, that seems to be the case—including law officials in Hermosa Beach, where Hot’s Restaurant is located.

“We contacted the Hermosa Beach Police Department, but with a lot on their plates, they haven't gotten around to the case. So we've taken the matter to court, filing suit against the restaurant, called Hot's Kitchen, for engaging in unlawful business practices,” says a blog post on the PETA site.

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