Editorial: Heads up, foie gras gourmands, the pate party is over — as it should be

Foie gras on toast.
(Nicolas Tucat / AFP / Getty Images)

Heads up, foie gras gourmands, the pate party is over — as it should be. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from foie gras producers fighting a California law that bans the force-feeding of ducks and geese as well as the sale of the famous delicacy produced by that inhumane method.

The foie gras producers were challenging a 9th Circuit decision upholding California’s ban on selling foie gras, which went into effect in 2012. But the ban itself had been put on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision.

The process of making foie gras almost always requires jamming a tube down the throats of ducks and geese and force feeding them until their livers swell to 10 times their normal size. This is animal cruelty, plain and simple, and it is unnecessary. Still, farmers and merchants had eight years from the time the bill was passed until it went into effect to either give up raising birds this way or find an alternative process that didn’t involve such mistreatment (admittedly unlikely).


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Instead, for the more than six years since the law went into effect, farmers and restaurateurs have relentlessly and, mostly unsuccessfully, fought the law in court. First, they claimed the law was an impermissible regulation of interstate commerce and asked for a preliminary injunction. They lost that at the federal district court level and then again on appeal. They were turned down for a hearing by the Supreme Court. Then, producers filed a lawsuit arguing that the law violated the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act, which forbids states from imposing regulations on ingredients that differ from the federal regulations. Absurdly, a federal judge agreed that a bird’s liver was an ingredient. The 9th Circuit reversed that decision but stayed the California ban pending a decision by the Supreme Court. Once again, the Supreme Court has refused to hear the challenge. So, to recap, opponents of the ban have litigated twice, lost in the 9th Circuit twice, and been rejected by the Supreme Court twice.

Now, the state ban on foie gras will go back into effect as soon as the 9th Circuit issues a mandate ordering that.

It would be great if this additional legal loss in the Supreme Court convinced farmers and merchants and restaurateurs to finally face facts: It’s unacceptable to torture ducks and geese for a sliver of foie gras pate.

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