Foie gras ban made official in California

foie gras
Public Domain Wikimedia Commons

Restaurants will now be fined up to $1,000 if caught selling this French delicacy.

Foie gras is once again illegal to produce and sell in the state of California. It has been banned in the past, but the ban has been suspended and reinstated several times over the past six years. This past Monday the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear arguments from the foie gras industry and supporting chefs that would see the ban overturned again. This means that the prohibition will finally go into effect.

Foie gras, a traditional French delicacy, is controversial because of how it's made. Ducks and geese are force-fed grain through a tube that goes down the esophagus in order to fatten their livers. This feeding process, which many say is cruel, is called "gavage." After slaughter, these are served seared or turned into pâté, and are revered for their silky, rich texture.

Reactions are understandably strong and mixed. French foie gras producers, who represent 70 percent of the global market, have called it "an assault on French (gastronomic and cultural) tradition." The National Post quotes Michel Fruchet, head of the Comité Interprofessionnel des Palmipèdes à Foie Gras:

"It is unacceptable that such a decision, taken under the influence of the lobbying of some activists orchestrating regular misinformation on our products to advocate dogmatic vegetarianism, could endanger the image of an emblematic dish of the French art of living."

PETA and the Animal Legal Defence Fund, by contrast, are thrilled by the decision to ban a product "made from tormented birds' diseased livers." PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement, "Now that California can enforce this ban, PETA urges diners to blow the whistle on any restaurant that's caught serving this illegal and hideously produced substance." The maximum fine for any restaurant caught serving foie gras is $1,000.

Fighting animal cruelty is important work, but I can't help but think that the anti-foie gras activists are missing the bigger issue here – and that is the industrial-scale farming of chicken, pigs, and cows. The meats of these animals are consumed on a far greater scale than foie gras, and their production practices are arguably more cruel, inhumane, and disease-ridden than foie gras production. Banning the production and sale of factory-farmed meats would have a much larger impact on the planet than focusing on a small-scale luxury item that most people have never even tasted and cannot afford.

Still, I suppose it's about setting a precedent and celebrating the small wins – as long as we don't stop there. The more kindness and respect for animals, the better off we'll all be.

Foie gras ban made official in California
Restaurants will now be fined up to $1,000 if caught selling this French delicacy.

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