Where Does California’s Foie Gras Law Stand?

Posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Senior Attorney on January 9, 2015

Foie gras is the product of extreme cruelty. Ducks are force-fed by having tubes shoved down their throats, which causes injury, swelling of the liver, and painful liver disease. In 2004, California banned the production and sale of force-fed foie gras. This landmark ban went into effect in 2012. Despite having had eight years to come into compliance, foie gras producers and sellers immediately challenged the law in federal court, seeking to halt enforcement of the sales ban through a preliminary injunction.

As part of a broad coalition of animal protection organizations, the Animal Legal Defense Fund played an integral role in helping defend the law as the litigation proceeded, submitting amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs at several stages. The law was upheld in the trial court and again by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to stop the law’s enforcement or reconsider its decision. The challengers’ petition for the Supreme Court to hear the case was also denied. Having failed—at every judicial level—to halt enforcement through a preliminary injunction, the foie gras proponents returned to the trial court to argue the merits of their case.

On January 7, 2015, the federal judge hearing the case struck down the foie gras sales ban on the basis that the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act preempts it. In a misguided decision, the court reasoned that the force feeding of ducks is somehow an “ingredient” of the final meat product, and thus, that states could not regulate it. The Animal Legal Defense Fund finds utterly meritless the idea that a ban targeting egregious cruelty on farms could be preempted by a law that applies exclusively to slaughterhouse operations and meat safety and labeling. California’s prohibition on force feeding to produce foie gras is unaffected by the decision.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and its fellow coalition members are urging Attorney General Kamala Harris to appeal this faulty ruling. We are confident that the Ninth Circuit will ultimately uphold the law, as it has in previous rounds of litigation, thereby preserving the will of Californians and ending the sale of this cruel product in California once and for all.

More Information

14 thoughts on “Where Does California’s Foie Gras Law Stand?

  1. moonisah stainton says:

    this is so sad, I honestly don’t understand.

  2. Barb Sperling says:

    “Animals don’t make me cry ~ What humans do to animals does.” ~ Anthony Douglas Williams, Inside The Divine Pattern

  3. Anna Carrillo says:

    No animal should be forced fed and I support to take action against banning the sale of foie gras. This animal cruelty and i don’t like this at all….STOP IT NOW

  4. Mari Scuderi says:

    so very sad ~~ breaks my heart ~~ how & why??? Please , this needs to end

  5. pati tomsits says:

    Breaks my heart & my soul. Why are humans still allowed to practice this very old ancient sadistic offensive technique known as gavage, i.e., shoving a 10- to 15- inch force-feeding tube pipe of very large increased quantities of food down the esophagus of ducks & geese (with daily increases in quantity) to fatten their livers causing these poor creatures to experience the most horrible stress, pain & unnecessary suffering imaginable during the shortened lives of the poor beautiful little creatures, totally destroying their quality of life? – for a few select wealthy humans to experience a moment’s “guilty sadistic pleasure” of a duck’s or goose’s diseased liver as an expensive delicacy? Despicable!!! Where is the human decency of man’s moral, ethical behavior & respect for these innocent, intelligent, sentient creatures who are unable to escape man’s unacceptable, inappropriate sadistic torture of them, “Animal Rights,” & Animal Welfare? Are we going back in time to the medieval European period of the Ashkenazi Jews when “animal cruelty” was acceptable??? This Commenter’s Opinion: Foie gras husbandry should be banned from the face of this Earth – forever!!! See: https://www.academia.edu/1149117/The_Foie_Gras_Fracas_Sumptuary_Law_as_Animal_Welfare & http://freudsbutcher.com/meat/foie-gras-schmaltz-grammel-the-food-of-my-people/

  6. Ami Shah says:

    With power (to wield animals), comes responsibility. I am ashamed to call our kind as ethical and compassionate.

  7. Renee Tone says:

    To call this latest ruling by the federal judge “misguided” is being kind. It is a travesty and a tragic one at that. It countenances extreme cruelty to innocent ducks and geese, absurdly arguing that force feeding is an ingredient of the final product. I wonder in whose greedy, corrupt pocket this judge is sitting?

    Once again, human beings are acting in a shameless and really despicable manner, putting greed and selfish pleasures before kindness and compassion. It’s why I prefer animals to people.

  8. JT says:

    A chef in Sacramento, Patrick Mulvaney, has been wallowing in public glee over the decision. He was quoted in the paper about how thrilled he and other restaurant owners are for this regained freedom to serve fatty liver. Disgusting man. A boycott of Mulvaney’s is in order. Here’s their FB page.

  9. NP says:

    There is no defensible logic in this bizarre decision. Something seems very fishy here as the judge lifting the ban was clearly not being guided by logic or the law.

  10. GuardDuck says:

    How can anyone continue to allow mental & physical cruelty to these poor defenseless creatures?

  11. Holly Lutz says:

    No words exist to explain how much I want this to stop.

  12. JoAnne Klein says:

    The method to produce foie gras is DEEPLY disgusting and abominable. Makes me wonder if this judge was bribed, and if not, has he ever actually watched this horrific physical torture perpetrated upon ducks? As for the Sacramento Chef who is so delighted at this ban’s reversal, I’d like to see someone shove a tube down his throat and force feed him – maybe if he finds out first hand how it feels he’ll change his mind. ALL Humans need to realize that “people” are just another species belonging to the animal kingdom, and all need to be treated with kindness especially those being raised for food.

  13. Marian Mikes says:

    To the judge and those involved in perpetuating this torture, isn’t there a more humane way to obtain nutrition? Knowing full well that the “product” is obtained by administering torment for a lifetime. How would you feel?

  14. Marian Mikes says:

    13. (con’t) My mistake: Ducks are not tortured for a “lifetime” as I previously stated, but for the last 9 days – 3 weeks of their life (Just finished reading #5 pati tomsits 1/12/15 posting w/ attachment – thank you).

    How can we, humans, think it is justifiable to torture other creatures for our own gastronomic pleasure?
    How can one enjoy eating this “product”, knowing the last 9 days-3 weeks of this creature’s life was spent in agony for their pleasure?

Be a Partner in Protection!

Donate monthly to help animals.

or make a one-time gift »

ALDF's Online Store

Help fund our lifesaving work!


Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.

Join Us

Follow ALDF on these networks:

Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.