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  • Gina Scrofano

GOOD NEWS! Ninth Circuit Court Unanimously Reinstates CA Foie Gras Ban


In what the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is calling "a monumental victory for ducks," a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated California's ban on foie gras.


The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), ALDF, and other animal welfare organizations have campaigned against foie gras for years, due to the egregious methods in which the so-called 'delicacy' is produced.


Gavage feeding, a method in which a metal tube is shoved down the throats of confined birds to force-feed them, is used to cause their livers to unnaturally expand up to ten times its normal size, producing the fatty liver restaurants offer on their menus.


However, ordering 'fatty liver' for dinner isn't as appetizing or luxurious for many, so the French translation 'foie gras' is used in its place.


Unfortunately, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not shown any interest in preventing these types of cruelties, and for over a decade, animal welfare organizations have been fighting to have the USDA include protection for birds under the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, to no avail.


This has been an ongoing battle dating back to 2004 when CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California lawmakers enacted a law, CA Health and Safety Code §25982, banning such methods and giving foie gras producers seven years to phase out the inhumane practice.


Considering there is no humane way of producing fatty livers to serve in restaurants, foie gras producers filed a lawsuit after that seven-year mark, in 2012.


However, the ALDF, HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, and the Marin Humane Society filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief supporting the state ban against that lawsuit, and the Ninth Circuit court ruled in favor of upholding the ban in 2013.


In 2015, the fight against the cruel production of foie gras took a turn when the US District Court for CA's Central District ruled that the federal Poultry Products Inspections Act trumped the CA foie gras ban, claiming that force-feeding was an 'ingredient' of foie gras. The 2015 ruling invalidated the original 2004 ban, which required the phase-out of force-feeding methods, and re-legalized the sale of foie gras in CA.


But this story comes with a happy ending because the HSUS, ALDF and other animal welfare groups did not back down, and on September 15th, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated, "Force-fed is not a physical component that we find in our poultry; it is a feeding technique that farmers use." This victorious ruling reinstates CA Health and Safety Code §25982 and upholds the 2004 CA foie gras ban.


Not only will this likely prevent the torment of thousands of geese and ducks, but as the HSUS stated, "[The ruling] affirms that state lawmakers and governors have a major role to play in setting standards for humane treatment, if they choose to do so."


As long as the US Congress and the USDA continue to fail when it comes to demanding the humane treatment of animals within the farming industry, we can only hope that more state legislators will step up and demand more for the people and animals of our nation.


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