We already knew that debates over California’s foie gras ban were far from over, but now things are getting really real. This week a team of foie gras proponents banded together and filed a lawsuit against California requesting an injunction against the ban, which is argued to be unconstitutional and an obstruction to federal commerce laws.
The lawsuit makes several claims. One of those is that the foie gras ban is prohibitively vague:
The statute defines “force feeding” as using a process that causes a bird “to consume more food than a typical bird of the same species would consume voluntarily.” In practice, the vagueness of this purported standard makes it impossible for anyone to know at what point a particular bird has been fed “more food” than the Bird Feeding Law allows.
In addition, the lawsuit asserts that the ban causes significant damage to California businesses as well as those out of state who previously counted on trade from the California fine dining industry:
If this law remains in effect and is deemed to apply to Plaintiffs, then California will become the only place in the world where the sale of, for example, foie gras – and every other product that is “the result of” ducks raised for their livers, including duck breast, duck fat, and even duck feathers – would be banned within its borders. As a result, the Bird Feeding Law destroys both the retail and the wholesale markets for the sale of duck products in California and places a substantial burden on interstate and foreign commerce.
According to reports, there are three main forces behind the lawsuit. The first is the Association des Éleveurs de Canards et d'Oies du Québec, a Quebecois duck-farming trade organization. Before the entire state of California goes off into a rousing rendition of Blame Canada, the other two plaintiffs are Hudson Valley Foie Gras, an award-winning foie gras producer based out of New York with a focus on humane farming, and Los Angeles-based Hot’s Kitchen Group helmed by Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards supporter Chef Sean Chaney who spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle about the lawsuit, which you can read in full through their article here:
"I think the injunction will help all chefs from the risk of unknowingly breaking the law, and give our legislators time to fix it," said Sean Chaney, executive chef and co-owner of Hot's Restaurant Group Inc., one of the plaintiffs named in the suit… "There's so much vagueness in the whole thing."
Elsewhere, other California restaurants are already eschewing sneaky workarounds in favor of outward rebellion. On Tuesday, Eater reported that San Clemente’s Café Mimosa served up a $150 prix fixe menu featuring foie gras in each of its six courses the previous night. The title of the menu: “Foie You!” If the police should go after him (and as we’ve reported, “if” is a very key word here – though supporters of the law are undoubtedly chomping at the bit to set an example), restaurant owner Antoine Price could face a $1,000 fine for the transgression.