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U.S. Court of Appeals Denies Attempt to Strike Down California Ban on Force Feeding Ducks

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary and the Marin Humane Society

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld California’s ban on force feeding ducks to produce foie gras. The ban was originally enacted in 2004 with the support of veterinarians and animal protection organizations including The Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS, The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary and the Marin Humane Society argued in support of the law as amicus curiae.

Foie gras producers were given a seven year phase-in period to develop and execute alternative methods of producing foie gras – ones that do not involve the cruel, but standard, industry practice of forcing ducks to consume significantly more than normal by shoving a pipe down their throat.

Instead of seeking alternatives, foie gras proponents waited seven years for the law to take effect, and then sued the state of California in an attempt to strike down the ban. When they lost their motion to temporarily block the state from enforcing the law, they appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit where a three-judge panel affirmed the lower court’s decision. The court held that the foie gras law was well within the state's broad authority to enact humane laws and prevent animal cruelty.

Due to the inhumane treatment of the affected birds, more than a dozen countries, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Israel have either prohibited force feeding for foie gras production or interpreted it as illegal under existing anti-cruelty laws. Cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco have passed resolutions condemning foie gras, and retailers such as Safeway, Target and Costco have refused to sell it. More than a hundred California restaurateurs dropped foie gras from their menus voluntarily before the ban was in effect.

The case is Association des Eleveurs de Canards et d’Oies du Quebec v. Harris, 12-05735, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Los Angeles.

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