Appeals court revives California ban on foie gras

Foie gras cru. (

Reuters — A U.S. federal appeals court on Friday revived a California state law banning the sale of foie gras made from force-fed birds.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a January 2015 lower court ruling striking down the law, saying the judge erred in concluding that the ban conflicted with a federal law governing the production of poultry products.

Friday’s 3-0 decision by the Pasadena-based appeals court is a victory for animal rights advocates opposed to force-feeding.

The decision is also a defeat for chefs who say they enjoy preparing foie gras, while luxury-minded diners enjoy eating it.

“It’s like a parent taking away a toy,” said Phillip Frankland Lee, the owner of Scratch Bar and Kitchen in Encino, Calif. and a former contestant on reality TV show Top Chef. “It will be something that’s missed by the guests.”

Prized by gourmands for its rich flavours, foie gras is the liver of specially fattened ducks or geese, and often used to make pate.

California’s law prohibits the sale of birds that are force-fed to enlarge their livers. It was passed in 2004 and originally took effect in 2012.

The law had been challenged by a group of Canadian duck and geese producers, the Association des Eleveurs de Canards et d’Oies du Quebec; Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, New York; and Hot’s Restaurant Group in Los Angeles.


“They made a mistake,” Hudson Valley manager Marcus Henley said in an interview. “This law has always been unconstitutional and incorrect in its basis. We won’t be stopping.”

The office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, which defended the law, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In January 2015, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson in Los Angeles agreed with opponents of the foie gras ban that the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act preempted it.

But in Friday’s decision, Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen said California was simply trying to ban a feeding method it deemed cruel and inhumane.

She said this posed no conflict with the federal law, even if its enforcement resulted in an effective ban on foie gras.

“Nothing in the federal law or its implementing regulations limits a state’s ability to regulate the types of poultry that may be sold for human consumption,” Nguyen wrote.

Jared Goodman, a lawyer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said that group was “thrilled” by the decision.

“It prohibits selling diseased livers of birds force-fed by jamming tubes down their throat and pumping concentrated food down their esophagus,” Goodman said in an interview. “This is truly torture and unimaginable cruelty.”

Reporting for Reuters by Jonathan Stempel and Richard Leong in New York and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles.

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