Megan Cross, Global Animal

A battle between California chefs and animal rights activists is underway and the reason is fatty goose or duck liver, commonly known as foie gras. The ban to sell or produce foie gras in California will go into effect July 1, 2012. Although the ban was passed in 2004, officials allotted a seven-year grace period for the restaurant to develop a more humane way of producing the livers. But nothing has changed, except perhaps the increase in restaurants serving foie gras.

Photo Credit: Rick Steves' Tours
Photo Credit: Rick Steves’ Tours

The ban isn’t an attack on meat eaters or even eating duck liver. It’s a strike against gavage, or force feeding, the animals. Supporters of foie gras production claim that because the duck (or goose) doesn’t have a gag reflex, force feeding them is not harmful. Animal rights supporters disagree and ague that the birds undergo trauma and can suffer from esophageal tears, impaired liver function, and expansion of the abdomen making it burdensome for the birds to walk. 

A group of 100 chefs have gotten together to oppose the ban, but not all chefs are against it. Wolfgang Puck, perhaps California’s most famous chef, wrote a letter to his fellow chefs in favor of the ban. He writes, “We chefs have the ability to create delicious and original dishes our customers will love without causing torment to animals,” according to SF Weekly. Puck goes on to say, “And here in California, our own customers understand the need for all animals, including those raised for food, to be treated humanely.” In 2007 Puck stopped offering foie gras in his restaurants. 

California isn’t the first to ban the product as many countries in Europe, as well as Israel, have eliminated the dish. Chicago also banned foie gras in 2006, but the chefs stubbornly refused to stop serving it. Few citations were given out and the ban was repealed in 2008.

California is no stranger to change. In 2008, Proposition 2 which banned the use of veal crates, sow gestation crates and battery cages, was passed with 63% of the vote. We can’t say that other animals raised for food — such as chicken, cows, and pigs — are treated any better than the geese or ducks raised for foie gras. With an increase in education and action, California can be the flagship state in raising animal awareness from the factory to your table. 

Call your local legislator and let them know you support the ban in foie gras.  

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