California Foie Gras Ban Challenged

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

The ridiculous and unconstitutional new California foie gras ban is already the target of a lawsuit.

The suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles maintains the law, which outlaws force-feeding birds for the purpose of enlarging their livers and selling products from force-fed birds, is unconstitutional, vague and interferes with federal commerce laws.


“I think the injunction will help all chefs from the risk of unknowingly breaking the law, and give our legislators time to fix it,” said Sean Chaney, executive chef and co-owner of Hot’s Restaurant Group Inc., one of the plaintiffs named in the suit. The group has restaurants in Hermosa Beach and Northridge. “There’s so much vagueness in the whole thing.”

Association des Éleveurs de Canards et d’Oies du Québec, the nonprofit group that represents farmers and distributors, and New York’s Hudson Valley Foie Gras, North America’s largest producer of the delicacy, are also listed as plaintiffs.

This is great news, and follows on the heels of a similar suit to overturn California’s equally dumb shark-fin ban, along with a suit seeking to overturn the state’s caged-egg law (known as Proposition 2).

I’ll have more to say on the matter in my upcoming weekend Reason food-law column. For now, read up on the suit here and here, and check out the actual complaint here.

Baylen Linnekin

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19 Responses to “California Foie Gras Ban Challenged”

  1. #1 |  Burgers Allday | 

    ah, the old iroquois v. lovenheim ishes. BTW, i did a song about that case back in ’92. It isn’t the best song in the world, but it may be the best song ever written about protesting goose pate by using loopholes in the law of corporations.

    Song can be found here:

    (scroll down til you get to the yellow song player)

    “Why, Burgers? Why!?!” (TM)

  2. #2 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I wish that I thought I could broker a deal whereby the Right would agree to keep out of people’s bedrooms if the Left would stay out of their kitchens.

  3. #3 |  Baylen Linnekin | 

    #2 +1

  4. #4 |  Other Sean | 

    In my part of the country, when gather together to eat goose liver on the 4th of July, we call it “Freedom Fat.”

  5. #5 |  UCrawford | 

    I hate to say it, but while I think the foie gras ban is a ridiculous piece of nanny-statism and pseudo-environmentalism, I don’t really have a problem with the shark-fin ban. The foie gras ban is about preventing “cruelty” to animals, which is not only an arbitrary concept but a ridiculous one (since we kills animals to eat them anyway). The shark fin ban is to prevent overfishing of a key piece of the food chain in the oceans…the international waters of which fall prey to “tragedy of the commons” all too often. Since nobody actually “owns” the ocean, there is a limited interest to maintain sustainable levels of fishing for niche markets like shark fins. Granted, California is probably not the biggest consumer of the product (I believe that’s China and Japan) but I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong for them to ban the product, same as I don’t believe it was wrong to ban ivory.

    That’s not me saying that sharks or elephants are special, noble creatures, just that because of the flawed way in which governments deal with common-use areas I think there are times where such legislation is necessary.

  6. #6 |  UCrawford | 

    Granted, that’s a general commentary…upon reading about the specifics of the California law, yes, it’s idiotic and poorly written. That’s usually what happens when you draft a law designed to kowtow to stupid celebrities.

  7. #7 |  Herb | 

    Eat duck liver if you want, but must they be artificially fattened through force-feeding? “Hey, quit sticking that tube down that duck’s throat,” strikes me about as big an abridgement of freedom as “Hey, don’t text and drive.”

    If it’s a nanny state you don’t want, why must you prove with stupid behavior that it’s what you need?

  8. #8 |  Bob | 

    Do people actually do this shit? Stuff some poor Duck with food to the point that their liver enlarges so they can eat the liver? That’s completely retarded. Stop doing that. Hell, I can’t even say it constitutes ‘abuse’… it’s not like they’re starving it. It’s just stupid and demonstrates an unhealthy attitude towards livestock. What’s next, making it illegal to feed corn to cows? That’s not good for the cow’s liver, either.

    What is wrong with people? Why can’t they accept that animals do best on what they’ve evolved to do best on and just feed them that instead of insisting on putting humans so far above the rest of the food chain that it doesn’t matter what we do to the animals we eat.

    As to the law, What the fuck is wrong with people in California? This is a retarded, unenforceable law that is ripe with abuse possibilities. Want your competition that sells Duck products to be inconvenienced? Report them! Hell, is this LEO environment, they’ll probably be raided by SWAT.

    And that’s the general problem with laws like this. They are either vague to the point of being abuse bait (Like this one is.) or they are commerce destroying regulations that will cause industry to flee your state (Like the egg law.) A state that I might add, is on the brink of bankruptcy and really can’t afford to chase business away.

    It’s pointless to get up in arms about people treating their livestock like this, especially when the people buying the product are doing so specifically because the livestock WAS treated this way.

  9. #9 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 


    Your morality is showing. And that’s more or less the point. Ducks are not sapient, or even particularly close. I can agree that force-feeding them is wrong in some abstract sense, but I fail to see where that is the government’s goddamned business. And making it the government’s business makes interfering buttinskis like Bloomberg in NY look less batsh*t crazy.

  10. #10 |  Herb | 

    “Your morality is showing.”

    Balderdash. I’m no moral crusader and foie gras eaters are not immoral people. I just do not think this is a big deal for a number of reasons, some philosophical, some practical.

    Philosophically, I have no problem with the government having an interest in animal welfare. Seems to me that it’s rather common and accepted that this is a legitimate area of concern, from pets to livestock to game and wildlife. One can quibble about the scale and scope of regulations, but I don’t think one can say “it’s not the government’s business” and expect to be taken seriously. (Well…anywhere outside the comment section of a libertarian blog.)

    Practically, I know that Anthony Bourdain and a bunch of foodies will be distraught, but very few people eat foie gras on a regular basis, and I suspect that many of them will be satisfied with eating non-gavaged duck livers if they must eat duck livers. If not, perhaps they will go on to lead meaningful and hopefully long lives eating other things. Or go somewhere else and enjoy their beloved Foie Gras. California hasn’t banned that yet, have they?

  11. #11 |  John David Galt | 

    I’m with C.S.P. One can make a humanitarian case that force-feeding geese or keeping hens in small cages is cruelty, but the right way to pursue that view is to refrain from buying products that are the results of that cruelty (or possibly all products of vendors who engage in cruelty). The rest of us have the right to keep buying what we want.

  12. #12 |  IonOtter | 

    I try not to eat cruelty, but this is ridiculous. If you don’t like the cruelty, then don’t eat it, and don’t support those that do. That’s simple economics.

    I definitely agree with the ban on shark fins, though. Sharks cannot be farmed like geese, which aren’t endangered in the slightest. They are a finite resource and a critical part of the ecosystem. If people were to use the whole shark, and do it in a sustainable manner, then sure. No problem. But fishing boat are doing a grab-all-you-can-as-long-as-you-can clean sweep.

  13. #13 |  Mairead | 

    The foie gras ban is about preventing “cruelty” to animals, which is not only an arbitrary concept but a ridiculous one (since we kills animals to eat them anyway).

    It’s only arbitrary and ridiculous if you also see no difference between shooting someone dead and torturing them for a few weeks before shooting them dead.

    Too many humans see nothing wrong with taxonomising other creatures to suit their selfish interests, and exculpating themselves by calling their books-cooking “science”.

    Not that long ago –well within my own lifetime, in fact– it was “scientific fact” that women were incapable of doing many things that just happened -entirely by chance, of course- to pay well.

    Also within my own lifetime, it was “scientific fact” that Black folk were stronger, less affected by heat, more suited to heavy labor, and not as smart as White folk.

    I’m sure people here can think of other “scientific facts” that are exploited to justify the unjustifiable.

    Small anecdote about one non-human:

    Dr Irene Pepperberg, a research psychologist, studies cognition in non-humans. She worked for 30 years with an African Grey Parrot named Alex (1976-2007). As reported by Dr Temple Grandin, one day Pepperberg repeatedly asked him to show off for visitors without giving him the rewards they had agreed on. Becoming more and more irritated, he finally said very clearly “Want. A. Nut!! Enn uh tuh, NUT!!!”. She almost collapsed from shock -she knew Alex had mastered some abstract concepts, such as number and color, but had had no idea that he had also started learning to spell.

  14. #14 |  SIV | 

    Mmmmmm gavage-fattened sentient/sapient parrot livers.

  15. #15 |  Michael S | 

    Next, break out the long-pig.

  16. #16 |  Other Sean | 


    One good thing about long-pigs: you never have to force feed them to get your hands on a few massively enlarged livers. They do that shit to themselves.

  17. #17 |  Surly Chef | 

    Wow, the stupid in this thread is strong. From anthropomorphizing water fowl, flat out lying about the physiology of migratory birds, to claiming the rights of a minority are subservient to the opinions of a majority, I can’t even fathom the boot licking disguised as freedom that goes along with this topic.

  18. #18 |  emerson | 

    This may not be the most sympathetic crowd, and I can’t say I really cared about the issue until I kept chickens myself, but I would implore Agitator readers who can afford it to consider purchasing cage-free or free-range eggs. Caged hens lead miserable lives. Do they experience suffering the way humans do? Probably not, but neither do dogs, and I would assume most people here would not support cruelty toward dogs.

    Standard Libertarian Disclaimer: I am opposed to laws preventing people from purchasing caged eggs. Persuasion and incessant hectoring are my preferred methods of change.

  19. #19 |  You Can’t Eat This (Or That, Either) | The Agitator | 

    […] of food bans in this country and elsewhere. Coming on the heels of things like California’s foie gras ban (and the resultant challenge to the law) and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to […]