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January 27, 2014

Court of Appeals Rejects Bid to Reconsider California’s Foie Gras Ban

Absent intervention by the United States Supreme Court, California’s landmark ban on force feeding ducks to produce foie gras will stay in effect. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request by a handful of foie gras proponents to reconsider their challenge to the law.

The California ban was originally enacted in 2004, with the support of veterinarians and animal protection organizations including The Humane Society of the United States. It gave foie gras producers seven years to work out alternative ways of producing foie gras that do not involve the cruel but standard industry practice of shoving a pipe down the ducks’ throats to force them to consume far more than is natural.

Instead of seeking alternatives, foie gras proponents waited for the law to take effect and then filed suit 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. In Monday’s ruling, the Ninth Circuit denied a request to rehear the ruling en banc.

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 100 California restaurateurs dropped foie gras from their menus voluntarily before the ban went into effect.

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