Landmark Victory for Animal Legal Defense Fund in Foie Gras Lawsuit

Posted on April 12, 2013

For immediate release

Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund

SAN FRANCISCO — Today ALDF won a major victory in the false-advertising case against New York-based producer Hudson Valley Foie Gras (HVFG). The U.S. District Court of Northern California denied HVFG’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit which alleges that HVFG, the largest foie gras producer in the nation, violated the federal Lanham Act and California’s False Advertising and Unfair Competition Laws, by claiming to be "the Humane Choice." ALDF’s co-plaintiff, Ella Nemcova, operates a Brooklyn-based company, The Regal Vegan, which produces a legitimately humane, plant-derived foie gras alternative called "Faux Gras." HVFG’s manipulative marketing tactics unfairly encourage consumers to buy its force-fed foie gras instead of cruelty-free products like The Regal Vegan’s. ALDF’s lawsuit also marks the first time a humane competitor has brought forth a federal case, using false advertising laws, alongside an animal protection group. Today’s victory dismissed challenges to the legal standing of The Regal Vegan as a humane competitor and agreed that the groundbreaking case is actionable. While the court denied ALDF’s standing as co-plaintiff its other claims may go forward.

Hudson Valley’s foie gras products are derived from force-feeding young ducks with enormous amounts of grain in order to produce abnormally large livers, eight or more times the size of a healthy liver. Avian pathologists agree that force-fed foie gras production is so painful for ducks that force-fed foie gras can never be "humane." Force-feeding can cause birds to develop a liver disease known as hepatic lipidosis, which may lead to illness including respiratory distress, diarrhea, seizure, and death. Birds are often injured during the process of force-feeding, leading to bacterial infection, pneumonia, and bone fractures. In 2012, California banned the sale and production of cruelly-produced foie gras, yet HVFG products remain available online to California purchasers.

"The court’s decision demonstrates that misleading well-intentioned consumers is actionable under the law. Consumers deserve to know the truth about the exploitation of ducks and the reality behind foie gras’s force-fed lies," says Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. "The Animal Legal Defense Fund will hold Hudson Valley accountable for its cruelty and deception."

Copies of the lawsuit are available by request.

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