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California’s Foie Gras Ban Is Back

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Judges today ruled that California is free to enforce it

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California’s 2004 law banning the sale of foie gras in the state is back on the table, after judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals issued a ruling this morning. The ban was overturned in 2015, after producers of foie gras filed a suit against it; a loophole was found and a district judge ruled that the state ban illegally interfered with federal law.

The ruling this morning says that California is free to enforce the ban, though the sale of the delicacy is still allowed until the appeals process has been completed. Foie gras, the fatty liver of a duck or goose, has long been a point of legal contention in the state of California. After the ban, which prohibited the import of foie gras into the state, was enacted in 2012, Bay Area chefs were particularly vocal in their opposition.

The law itself prohibits the import of foie gras into California; given that there are few producers of the product in the state, it effectively snuffs out the sale of foie gras in restaurants. Because possession of the item was not illegal, many restaurants used the opportunity to “give away” foie gras in their restaurants, rather than sell it.

“They made a mistake,” manager Marcus Henley of Hudson Valley, one of the plaintiffs in the suit against the ban, told Reuters. “This law has always been unconstitutional and incorrect in its basis. We won’t be stopping.”

The panel of three judges ruled unanimously that the 2015 decision was wrong. Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen wrote that the state ban posed no conflict with federal law. In the decision, Nguyen wrote “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.”

Animal rights groups like PETA are celebrating today’s decision. In a statement, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said that “PETA has protested against this practice for years, showing videos of geese being force-fed that no one but the most callous chefs could stomach and revealing that foie gras is torture on toast and unimaginably cruel.”

Stay tuned for more information on what this might mean for the sale of foie gras in California.