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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a bid to temporarily halt a ban on the sale of the food delicacy foie gras in California, which took effect this month, but he agreed to hear arguments at a future date.
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson in Los Angeles said the request for a temporary order by a restaurant owner and industry groups to end the ban should have been requested before July 5, when it was filed, and did not require urgency by the court. He set a new hearing date for August 29.
Foie gras, which means "fatty liver" in French, is produced by force-feeding corn to ducks and geese to enlarge their livers, which is harvested to produce gourmet dishes.
The practice, which dates back centuries, is abhorred by animal rights groups. In 2004, California lawmakers enacted a ban on it that took effect on July 1.
Some restaurants and industry groups have sought to reverse the ban. Wednesday's request for the temporary halt was made by Los Angeles-based Hot's Restaurant Group along with Canadian organization Association des Eleveurs de Canards et d'Oies du Quebec and New York producer Hudson Valley Foie Gras.
The groups contend the ban is unconstitutional, vague and interferes with federal commerce. Attorney Michael Tenenbaum, who filed the federal suit against the state, said his clients are losing thousands of dollars a day as a result of the law.
"This is having a chilling effect on the industry because California is a huge market for the product," he said in court.
Jonathan Lovvorn, an attorney for the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement that the animal rights group was pleased with Wilson's ruling.
"No amount of legal maneuvering will change the fact that shoving pipes down birds' throats to force them to consume vastly more than they would otherwise is grossly inhumane and unacceptable to the people of California," Lovvorn said.
Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte