Foie Gras Ban About to Take Effect in California

By on June 29, 2012 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Yesterday, a Los Angeles Times editorial told foie gras fans bellyaching about the imposition of a sales ban that starts on Sunday, “Eat up while you can–and then get over it.”

The Times has the second part exactly right.

California’s ban on selling foie gras from force-fed animals–passed by state lawmakers in 2004, and signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger–takes effect after more than a seven-year grace period for diners and for the state’s one producer, Sonoma Foie Gras. Almost on the eve of a ban, a small gaggle of chefs announced their intention to overturn the ban in the state legislature. 

But the bill’s original author, former Sen. John Burton, took to the airwaves and told them to stuff it. Leaders in the California legislature said they’d not give the issue any floor time. For the time being at least, their effort is dead.

Ducks at a California foie gras facility, Sonoma Foie Gras
Photo by Animal Protection & Rescue League
Force-fed ducks at Sonoma Foie Gras in Calif.

In recent days, in the run-up to the ban, there’s been a spate of news stories about high-end restaurants offering engorged liver by the heap, as a sort of last supper for foie gras lovers. Their mawkish laments and righteous indignation about the injustice of it all is the central message of these news stories. 

What are these people really being ask to give up? Foie gras comes from animals fed far beyond normal, and only with the assistance of a pneumatic force-feeding pipe jammed down their esophagi multiple times a day. Their livers swells to 10 times their normal size. This method and volume of feeding creates a disease state in the animals–known as hepatic lipidosis. They’re often debilitated by the disease, unable to walk.  And all for a luxury item, or as author Matthew Scully rightly labeled it, “a table treat.” 

Life will go on for lovers of foie gras. And for the chefs who prepare it. They have a super-abundance of choices in life.   

Is it so much to ask them to forego the product so ducks don’t have to go through the pain that comes along with this abnormal practice of force-feeding?

We tell dogfighters that we care more about the welfare of dogs than their peculiar form of recreation. We tell wearers of seal skin that they can bathe themselves in faux fur without any reduction in warmth or style. We tell those who eat shark-fin soup that there are many alternative soups to choose from.

These are small trade-offs for us, with big implications for animals. Minor matters of choice or even an occasional inconvenience for us are life-and-death matters for the animals.   

Making the right choices is at the heart of our movement for animal protection. These are life-affirming choices, and given the ingenuity and creativity of the human mind, we have so many options and alternatives–alternatives that are not only better for animals, but often better for us, too.


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