What is the status of foie gras in California?

In 2004 the California state legislature passed a ban on the production and sale of foie gras, which took effect in 2012. For the uninitiated, foie gras is fattened duck or goose liver, which is the product of force feeding the duck or goose, usually through a metal tube inserted into its throat. The ban was inspired by animal rights and welfare groups who argued that the force feeding is a form of animal cruelty. Legislators agreed with them.

However, in 2015 U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that California’s ban was trumped by a conflicting (or not, depending on who you ask) federal law, thereby allowing foie gras to be served in California once again. Foie gras can still not be produced in the state because the coalition of chefs and producers who challenged the ban did not challenge that aspect of the law. But it can now be served in restaurants and consumed by diners.

The lifting of the ban prompted childish glee from some chefs and understandable anger from animal rights activists. PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk responded to the decisions by arguing that, “The main ingredient in every bite of foie gras is cruelty to animals” and accusing foie gras enthusiasts of showing a, “total lack of shame and empathy to crow about the chance to serve and sell the diseased liver of a tortured, forced-fed bird.” Although the ducks and geese affected by foie gras production amount to a tiny fraction of the poultry raised for food every year, because foie gras is an expensive delicacy and the force feeding process is particularly gruesome, animals rights activists are galvanized by the issue.

They may not be entirely out of hope though. The California Attorney General has until February 6, 2015 to appeal the decision, at which point the Ninth Circuit Court may still uphold the law and foie gras will once again be taken off the menu. For now, we will all just have to wait and see if the Attorney General is more gourmand or animal advocate.