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U.S. Supreme Court Decision Leaves California Foie Gras Ban in Place

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The nation’s high court makes it official: foie gras still cannot be served or sold in California

Foie gras
Chef is serving foie gras with berry sauce
Kondor83 via Shutterstock

The United States Supreme Court refused to hear arguments against California’s foie gras ban Monday. The Court’s action means that, once again, no business may sell or produce foie gras in Los Angeles or within California.

The 2004 law bans the process of making foie gras, or gavage, which requires force-feeding ducks or geese more than they normally eat by placing a tube into the bird’s esophagus.

The Supreme Court did not make any statements about California’s foie gras ban, which has been circulating throughout California courts for 15 years. According to the SF Gate, the nation’s highest court simply announced it would not hear the case against California’s ban on the production and sale of foie gras, thus upholding the ban itself.

The 2004 ban originally allowed producers seven years to develop an alternative production process, which left a ban in place from 2011 to 2015. In 2012, two non-California foie producers and sellers, along with Hot’s Restaurant Group out of Southern California, filed a motion to prevent the law from taking effect. The district court ruled that California could continue to enforce the law, and in August 2013, a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals kept the ban in place.

Two years later, a district judge found the ban violated federal law and ordered it to be lifted. Angelenos might recall LA chefs embracing the ban’s end and went straight-up foie gras crazy on menus throughout the city. The Ninth Circuit court once again upheld the ban in 2017, but the challengers were hoping for some relief from the Supreme Court.

So, once again, foie gras is banned in California. Animal rights groups like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals find the process inhumane and are likely celebrating the ban’s enforcement. As for the opponents, foie gras producers and chefs characterize the ban as ambiguous and impossible to enforce. Violators that sell or produce foie gras in California will be fined $1,000 for each offense.

Providence co-owner and chef Michael Cimarusti provided Eater with a statement about Monday’s case.

“Providence will comply with the law, just as we did when the sale of Foie Gras was first banned in California. I’m not sure if this ban represents the will of the majority of Californians, be that as it may, it will no longer be available here at Providence.”

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