One of the country’s most contentious legal battles has been swirling around a subject you might not have expected. Since 2012, California has been enforcing a 2004 ban on the sale and production of foie gras — a French delicacy whose method of production animal rights groups consider inhumane. Chefs and trade groups in the state have been fighting against the ban, which was just upheld once again on Monday.
If you’ve never had it before, foie gras (which means “fatty liver”) is large, butter-rich lobes of duck or goose liver pâté, produced by force-feeding ducks and geese by inserting a tube down their throats and pouring grain into it. The process is considered by many to be cruel, and when the ban went into effect, California’s only foie gras producer was forced to close. Some restaurants, however, continued to serve the controversial food product, claiming they were simply “giving it away” to guests, and a range of chefs and associated trade groups have worked to overturn the ban. An official challenge to the ban had existed in California’s Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, but the US Supreme Court ruling this week effectively squashed it.
Kelsey Eberly, attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said, “We are absolutely thrilled that the Supreme Court has denied the foie gras industry’s petition to hear the case, and that will allow the Ninth Circuit’s ruling upholding the law’s constitutionality to go into effect, hopefully today.”
It’s not surprising, however, that after the decision was made public, the chef’s coalition announced it will mount yet another legal challenge in federal district court. Ken Frank, owner of La Toque Restaurant in Napa, said, “I’m not entirely surprised by this, and I remain as confident as ever that once this still very misguided law is subjected to proper legal scrutiny, it will fail on a number of levels.”
So while the future of foie gras in California is uncertain, for now, the pâté is definitely off the table.