Animal Legal Defense Fund Serves Up Lawsuit Against California Restaurant for Illegal Foie Gras

Posted on March 14, 2013

Undercover Investigation Exposes Napa’s La Toque Restaurant for Flagrant Violation of Foie Gras Ban

For immediate release

Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
Megan Backus, ALDF

foie grasNAPA, Calif. — Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit in Napa County Superior Court against Napa-based La Toque restaurant for violating the state ban on selling and distributing force-fed foie gras products. ALDF’s undercover investigations reveal that despite the state ban, La Toque routinely sells foie gras products derived from force-feeding birds to enlarge the birds’ liver ("foie gras"), in violation of California Health and Safety Code §§ 25982 and unfair business practices under California Business and Professions Code §§ 17200. According to the lawsuit, these practices undermine the integrity of the market by allowing La Toque to attract diners with its outlawed products. Kenneth Frank, head chef at La Toque and a vocal opponent of the ban, is also named as a defendant. Today’s lawsuit alleges that La Toque aims to circumvent the law by calling its actual sales of foie gras "gifts." As a result, ALDF has been required to expend valuable resources investigating the defendant’s unlawful acts.

Foie gras is a duck or goose liver forcefully enlarged up to more than eight times its normal size. It results from a handler forcing a long tube down a young bird’s throat and pumping an unnatural amount of nutritionally deficient food directly into the bird’s stomach. California’s ban on the production and sale of foie gras was enacted in 2004 and went into effect on July 1, 2012. The industry was given more than seven years to create a product not produced by force-feeding but failed to do so. ALDF’s lawsuit asks the court to compel the restaurant to follow the law.

"Restaurants like La Toque, who arrogantly and knowingly violate the law, cause the suffering of hundreds of thousands of birds. These lawbreakers will be held accountable by the courts," said Stephen Wells, ALDF’s executive director. "Our lawsuit protects California’s interest in removing a cruelly-produced product from the marketplace."

Copies of the lawsuit are available by request.

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