Judge reverses part of ban on selling foie gras in California

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The I-Team spoke to activists who are outraged by the recent ruling of a judge who lifted the ban on restaurants selling foie gras.

A French delicacy, banned two years ago in California because of animal abuse issues, is suddenly back on restaurant menus. A federal judge in Southern California unexpectedly threw out part of the foie gras ban on Wednesday.

The ABC7 News I-Team prompted the foie gras debate a decade ago with our investigative reports.

The same judge upheld the ban before, but now has lifted the ban on other grounds. The activists who worked to get the foie gras ban on the books say they are outraged by this ruling.

In 2003, we showed a video shot by activists at the state's only foie gras farm in San Joaquin County, near Stockton. At least three times a day a worker grabbed ducks at the farm and shoved a long, thick metal tube down its throat to inject up to a pound of corn into the birds.

The force feeding process expands the duck's liver more than 10 times its normal size. Ducks grew so large, they couldn't move, and couldn't defend themselves against rats that were eating them alive.

One of the activists who shot the undercover video described to us the conditions at the farm. She said, "We really didn't know that as we walked in we were going to encounter sick birds, dead birds, birds with open festering wounds and that each one of them would be looking at us essentially begging to get out."

San Francisco restaurant celebrates foie gras ban lift


In the wake of our reporting, foie gras became illegal in California in 2012. However, this week a federal court judge struck down the ban, saying it went too far because it banned the importation of foie gras from other states. Local restaurateurs, including chef Robin Song at Hog and Rocks in San Francisco's Mission District were happy to see the ban overturned.

"To put some kind of restriction on what someone can eat, what someone can use to cook with, I don't agree with it for that sake," Song said.

Song says even before the ban was listed Wednesday, he still had foie gras on his menu. In fact, as the I-Team uncovered last year, many Bay Area restaurants were still quietly serving the item by getting around the ban by serving it a-la-carte and free if you ordered another menu item.

Here's a recap of how we got here: On Feb. 19, 2004, then-Senate President John Burton introduced a bill banning the force-feeding of birds for the purpose of producing foie gras. The bill was passed and signed into law on Sept. 29, 2004, but it did not take effect for eight years until July 1, 2012, to give foie gras farmers time to transition.

Keep in mind, it's still illegal to produce foie gras in California. The federal judge only lifted the ban on importing it from other states.

The state attorney general can appeal and a spokesman told the I-Team they are reviewing the case.
Related Topics:
foodbananimalanimal crueltyrestaurantanimal abuselawscaliforniapoliticscooking chefbusinesscaught on cameraSan Francisco
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