Animal Advocates Appeal “Foie Gras” Case Against USDA

Posted on May 23, 2013

Legal Battle Continues against the USDA for Allowing the Sale of Diseased Bird Livers

For immediate release

Contact:
Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
Megan Backus, ALDF

LOS ANGELES
— Last week, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), on behalf of Farm Sanctuary, Compassion Over Killing, and the Animal Protection and Rescue League, filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for allowing the sale of foie gras–the product of diseased duck and goose liver­­–in violation of the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). Last week’s filing appeals the U.S. District Court’s decision that a previous court’s denial of a petition (asking for the removal of foie gras from the public food supply) was not arbitrary and capricious. Plaintiffs are represented in this matter by Steptoe & Johnson LLP as co-counsel with ALDF. ALDF is also presenting the USDA with a petition signed by more than 50,000 people to ban foie gras across the nation.

The USDA is coming under fire for denying the original petition, which called on the federal agency to eliminate diseased products from the food supply. Under PPIA, the USDA is responsible for condemning products derived from diseased birds, like foie gras, which is the pathologically diseased liver of force-fed ducks. The force-feeding process induces a disease known as hepatic lipidosis and causes the animals’ livers to swell up to eight or more times their normal size. In addition to animal cruelty, foie gras also poses serious risks to human health. The National Academy of Sciences has linked the consumption of foie gras to a deadly disease known as secondary amyloidosis. People with chronic inflammatory disease, for example, are at greater risk for developing secondary amyloidosis after eating force-fed foie gras.

California’s ban on production and sale of force-fed foie gras became effective July 1, 2012; a similar ban exists in more than a dozen countries around the world. If the appeal is granted in this case, the USDA will be obligated to reconsider the petition in question. However, if the court denies the appeal, the groups may choose to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The federal agency charged by law with protecting the public food supply is allowing diseased animal organs to be passed off as food,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “By not properly regulating foie gras, the USDA is failing animals as well as the public. It is time they do their duty.”

“Farm animals are individuals with interests and desires, just like dogs and cats,” says Farm Sanctuary Advocacy Director Bruce Friedrich. “For the same reason we wouldn’t cram pipes down the throats of dogs or cats to sell their diseased livers, we shouldn’t be doing that to ducks.”

“The science is clear: foie gras is the result of cruelly force-feeding animals in order to intentionally induce disease, and then this product is sold as a so-called delicacy,” says Cheryl Leahy, general counsel at Compassion Over Killing. “USDA needs to acknowledge this as a diseased product, and take action by banning foie gras, as other countries have already done.”

“Our animal cruelty investigators have repeatedly caught workers on video at foie gras production facilities jamming large metal pipes down the throats of ducks and pumping them full of massive quantities of corn mash,” states Bryan Pease, Esq., Executive Director of the Animal Protection and Rescue League. “Every chef we have talked to also recognizes that foie gras is drastically different from ordinary duck liver, in that it is pale, fatty and over ten times the size of a normal liver.”

Copies of the lawsuit and the citizen petition are available upon request.

ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

Farm Sanctuary provides lifelong protection to more than 1,000 recued farm animals and works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living (FarmSanctuary.org).

Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a national nonprofit animal protection organization. Since 1995, COK has worked to end the abuse of animals in agriculture through undercover investigations, public outreach, litigation, and other advocacy programs. COK is on the web at www.COK.net.

APRL (www.APRL.org) is a nationally active animal advocacy organization based in San Diego, California. Founded in 2003, APRL works to expose and eliminate animal cruelty occurring behind closed doors, particularly in the nation’s factory farms.