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US Supreme Court Upholds California Foie Gras Ban

California restaurateurs as well as producers across the country have been fighting the states foie gras ban since it was enacted in 2004. That fight es...

Frazer Jones
|Oct 14|magazine9 min read

California restaurateurs as well as producers across the country have been fighting the state’s foie gras ban since it was enacted in 2004. That fight escalated dramatically when the law was finally put into full effect and enforced in 2012 – out-of-state foie gras proponents including New York’s Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Canada’s Association des Éleveurs de Canards et d'Oies du Québe filed a lawsuit against the state of California calling the law prohibitively vague, damaging to California businesses, a violation of federal commerce laws, and above all unconstitutional.

Ever since then, the case has been working its way up and up through the court system – but now it has reached the end of the line. Today the United States Supreme Court rejected a petition to hear and rule on the case themselves. By refusing to touch the case, SCOTUS is effectively stopping the appeal process dead in its tracks and upholding the decision made by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals back in 2013. In turn, the decision made by the 9th Circuit Court upholds the original decision made by California District Court Judge Stephen Wilson all the way back in 2012.

In other words, the Supreme Court has given the legal go-ahead for California’s foie gras ban to remain in effect.

Jonathan Lovvorn, chief counsel for the Humane Society of the United States, released a statement praising the decision and the precedent it sets for the future:

"The Supreme Court’s decision means that the people of California have the right to prohibit the sale of certain food items, solely because they are the product of animal cruelty. The holding in this case – that States have the right to cleanse their markets of cruel products — is a precedent of enormous consequence for millions of animals."

 

As the Los Angeles Times points out, back in July co-defendant California Attorney General Kamala Harris released a statement of her own noting that the California law is no different from other state-specific laws, and has just as much of a right to be in place:

“State laws prohibiting the sale of products based on concerns about animal welfare, or simply on a social consensus concerning what is appropriate, are not unusual," she wrote in a brief, citing various states’ laws prohibiting the sale of horse meat.

 

Interestingly enough, not one of the three major plaintiffs in the case – neither Association des Éleveurs de Canards et d'Oies du Québec, nor Hudson Valley Foie Gras, nor Hot’s Restaurant Group – has issued so much as a Tweet acknowledging the decision, let alone an official statement. Perhaps the writing on the wall regarding the Supreme Court’s eventual decision was clear – two years is a fairly long time after all, the plaintiff side had not been successful once, and as Eater points out that the truly determined have found workarounds. Overall, it’s possible that that the foie gras industry has already moved on from the fight, restaurants focusing on making meals with what’s readily available while producers focus on doing business in states and countries where the product is welcome.

 

[SOURCE: Reuters via Eater; LA Times]