July 1: California Bans Foie Gras!

Life continues to be stranger than fiction.  In California, the PETA people scored one against the folks in the treacherous foie gras trade―and all those complicit in fattening up adorable ducks and geese for slaughter by force feeding. For the delirious wobblers unable to protest the perpetual pig-out, justice has been served.  Fair warning, to those people over-fertilizing their tomatoes or perhaps plying their kids with two scoops of ice cream instead of one:   beware, the food police are watching! 

Either as an act of public protest or sheer gluttony, a Farewell to Foie Gras lunch was held recently during the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival.  The rogue delicacy was celebrated with a five-course-heart-arresting foie gras studded meal presented by chefs from around the country, according to the Huffington Post.

Lobster and stone crab hot pot with foie gras noodles

     Courtesy Huffington Post

Dishes ranged from San Francisco Chef Chris Cosentino’s whole-bird squab with foie gras and hay, to Miami Chef Andre Bienvenu’s lobster and stone crab hot pot with foie gras noodles and foie gras butter crackers with pop rocks.

Approved in 2004 by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the July 1 ban effectively prohibits force-feeding birds, a regular practice in the foie gras industry. Force-feeding engorges the liver of a duck or goose by pumping feed into the bird’s esophagus via a metal tube. Animal rights groups like PETA have criticized the practice, claiming that it violates animal cruelty statutes.

Producers were given a window to come up with alternative production methods, but the window closed on July 1. As the deadline approached, foie gras proponents  hosted fundraiser dinners and worked to correct past violations.  Despite a last minute charter signed by more than 100 of California’s most famous chefs  including Thomas Keller, Vinny Dotolo, Tyler Florence, Michael Mina, Michael Chiarello and Mark Gold, the foie ban is now the law of the land.  

In the charter, CHEFS proposed that foie gras (duck or goose liver) remain legal, but suggested a number of strict regulations including hand feeding, a cage-free environment by 2017, regular visits from animal health care professionals, USDA inspections at the time of slaughter and living conditions that maximize mobility and comfort and minimize stress.

According to other Post articles the key question boils down to “whether the process, called “gavage,” of putting a tube down the animal’s throat rises to the level of actual animal cruelty. Foie defenders will tell you that gavage is almost second-nature to ducks and geese, whose bodies happen to be built to seasonally gorge themselves to prepare for migration. Their esophagi expand easily and they lack a gag reflex, so the process isn’t as uncomfortable — if it’s uncomfortable at all — as we might be led to believe. Foie opponents contend that the practice, which swells the animals’ livers to many times their normal size, is inherently inhumane.

At least 14 countries now have some sort of foie gras ban on the books, though most of these only target its production — not possession or consumption — through laws banning force-feeding as part of larger animal cruelty measures. The two exceptions to this are Chicago’s short-lived ban and California’s new law, which not only prohibits foie gras production but also bars shops and restaurants from selling it. It’s the closest thing to a scorched earth victory foie gras opponents might ever see.” 

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