California attorney general to appeal reversal of foie gras ban

Activists hold placards and shout slogans while gathered outside a restaurant serving foie gras in Beverly Hills.
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images)

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris said Wednesday she would appeal last month’s decision by a federal judge to overturn the state’s ban on foie gras.

The ban was lifted Jan. 7 after U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it interfered with an existing federal law that regulates poultry products.

The move was decried by animal welfare groups and supporters of the ban, but cheered on by many local chefs who immediately returned foie gras to their menus.


Foie gras is produced by force-feeding ducks and geese to unnaturally enlarge their livers. The process creates a rich delicacy at the expense of immense animal suffering, animal advocates say.

“We are confident that the 9th Circuit will correct the District Court’s mistake, and hope that the attorney general will hasten this result by expediting the appeal,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Harris filed a notice with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles of her intent to appeal. Her office declined to comment Wednesday.

Foie gras from force-fed poultry was outlawed in California by a bill that passed the state Legislature in 2004 and went into effect in 2012.

The law was challenged in court by Hot’s Restaurant Group, which operates restaurants in Northridge, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach; Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a producer based in New York; and a group of Canadian foie gras farmers called Assn. des Eleveurs de Canards et d’Oies du Quebec.

The plaintiffs argued that states can not interfere with federally approved poultry products because they’re already covered by the Poultry Products Inspection Act. That law gives the federal government the right to determine what ingredients belong in poultry. The plaintiffs argued it was then illegal for California to require foie gras to be made from birds that weren’t force-fed.


“We’re very confident that the district court’s judgment will be upheld on appeal,” the plaintiffs said in a joint statement. “The decision was based on the simple fact that, in the field of meat and poultry, federal law is supreme. California does not have the right to ban wholesome, [U.S. Department of Agriculture]-approved poultry products, whether it’s foie gras or fried chicken. We look forward to having our victory affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Defenders of the ban say they are confident the ban’s reversal won’t hold up on appeal, arguing that the force-feeding takes place long before the birds enter slaughterhouses that are covered by the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

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