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US appeals court reinstates California ban on French foie gras delicacy

© Georges Gobet, AFP file picture | The decisive factor behind the ruling was whether California was banning an ingredient or a process.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-09-16

A US appeals court has reinstated California’s ban on foie gras, a delicacy made from force-feeding birds, in a move hailed by animal rights advocates who say the process in making the liver pate amounts to nothing less than “torture on toast”.

Friday’s decision by the Pasadena-based federal appeals court reverses a previous ruling in 2015, saying the judge behind that ruling had erred in concluding that the ban conflicted with a federal law governing the production of poultry products.

The main question was whether the state was banning an ingredient or a process.

"It is not the livers that are force-fed, it is the birds," Judge Jacqueline Nguyen of the appeals court wrote. "The difference between foie gras produced with force-fed birds and foie gras produced with non-force-fed birds is not one of ingredient. Rather, the difference is in the treatment of the birds while alive."

Foie gras is produced by force-feeding ducks and geese by using a tube.

California's legislature had voted on its ban in 2004 with an eight-year grace period -- after which any restaurant caught selling the product risked a fine of $1,000 (€837).

Friday's judgment, which won't go into effect until the completion of an appeals process, was hailed by animal rights organisations but blasted by chefs and food groups who said it violated their freedoms.

In a statement, PETA said "the champagne corks are popping," adding that only the most callous chefs could stomach the practice of force-feeding poultry to produce diseased livers that it described as "torture on toast and unimaginably cruel".

The state 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.

"Don't eat it if you don't want to, but don't impede on anyone's rights to do what they want to do," TV chef Eric Greenspan was quoted as telling the Los Angeles Times. “Let's ban assault rifles before we ban foie gras if you want to talk about cruelty," he said.

Jared Goodman, PETA's director of animal law, told AFP the court ruling was "a huge step towards finality".

Its opponents now have 14 days to file an appeal before a wider bench, failing which it would become law – though if the appeal is heard, a final decision could be some time away.

The case could in theory eventually end up before the Supreme Court, an outcome seen as unlikely by Goodman.


Date created : 2017-09-16


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