A restaurant in Hermosa Beach, Calif. is testing the bounds of the state’s five-month-old ban on the production and sale of foie gras, a delicacy produced by force-feeding ducks so that their livers become enlarged.
Instead of “selling” foie gras, Hot’s Kitchen reportedly offers a “complimentary side” of foie gras with one of its specialty burgers. After local police didn’t respond to complaints, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed suit on Nov. 28 against the restaurant, saying Hot’s is violating the ban.
Foie Gras on the Sly
Hot’s “must have thought it was being sly,” says PETA in a press release about the case. “After the ban was in place, the restaurant continued to serve the foie gras burger but tried to be crafty by changing the menu to read that people who purchased the burger would receive a free side of foie gras.”
The restaurant is still in effect selling the foie gras burger, according to the complaint, because the foie gras does not come as a side (it comes on top, as it did pre-ban), and the foie gras burger is more expensive than the regular burgers on the menu.
Banned Around the World
At least 14 countries currently ban foie gras in some way, mainly by prohibiting its production as an animal cruelty law. California’s law, known as S.B. 1520, also prohibit its sale.
PETA and other animal rights groups like the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), based in San Diego, have waged a massive campaign against the product, which they say is made by treating ducks inhumanely.
“To produce foie gras (‘fattened liver’), ducks are force fed massive quantities of dense feed through a large metal pipe jammed down their throats to expand their livers to over ten times their natural size,” according to APRL. “The ducks are slaughtered at the point where many of them begin to die from the process.”
APRL points to strong support for the ban. “The San Diego City Council has commended APRL for its work on this issue and encouraged San Diegans to boycott this cruelty,” says APRL. “The cities of San Francisco, Solana Beach, West Hollywood and Berkeley have done the same. Over 85 percent of San Diegans support a ban on foie gras.”
Lack of Enforcement
But there has been a fair amount of resistance to the law since it was passed way back in 2004. Restaurants like Hot’s continue to skirt it, and producers of foie gras have challenged the ban in federal court. A similar ban in Chicago was unsuccessful.
Restaurant groups and libertarian groups like the Reason Foundation advocate for the ban’s demise, claiming it’s impossible to know how much is too much when it comes to feeding ducks.
Baylen J. Linnekin
“Besides the sheer foolhardiness of the ban, I argue the lack of enforcement is due to the fact the foie gras law doesn’t provide a city or any other governmental unit in the state with any clear trigger that would precipitate enforcement under the ban,” writes Baylen J. Linnekin for the Reason Foundation in a recent article.
“The law impossibly requires sellers in California to know all of the conditions under which birds are raised in other states and countries,” continues Linnekin, who leads Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit that fights food bans.
That’s not to say they couldn’t find out; it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that foie gras is made by cruelly force-feeding ducks. In fact, California delayed the law’s implementation for eight years so that studies could be done to find alternate methods for producing foie gras. None was discovered.
Do you think foie gras should be banned?