U.S. News

Appeals court revives California ban on foie gras

(Reuters) - A federal appeals court has revived a California state law banning the sale of foie gras made from force-fed birds.

The 9th 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 & Kitchen in Encino, California and a former contestant on the “Top Chef” reality TV show. “It will be something that’s missed by the guests.”

Prized by gourmands for its rich flavors, 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,” said Marcus Henley, Hudson Valley’s manager. “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, had no immediate comment.

In January 2015, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson in Los Angeles agreed with the law’s opponents 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 it effectively banned foie gras in the state.

“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 the decision “prohibits selling diseased livers of birds force-fed by jamming tubes down their throat and pumping concentrated food down their esophagus. This is truly torture and unimaginable cruelty.”

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Richard Leong in New York, and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Diane Craft