In a unanimous opinion, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision striking down California’s ban on foie gras. The production of foie gras requires gavage, the forceful and often violent overfeeding of ducks or geese via a tube inserted into their throats, which causes an enlarged, fatty liver. Fowl raised for foie gras live short, painful, and sick lives.
The ban passed the state legislature in 2004 and took effect in 2012. But restaurateurs and foie gras producers sued, and won; a district court judge ruled in 2015 that foie gras was an “ingredient” in poultry products and therefore the California law was preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). The appellate court disagreed. In the court’s decision, Judge Jacqueline Nguyen wrote that the law banned a method of production, not an ingredient, adding that “the PPIA and its preemption clause do not stand in the way of society’s evolving standards regarding animal treatment.”
Plaintiffs filed for a rehearing en banc by the Ninth Circuit, urging the full court to rethink the ruling that the state law is not preempted. Unfortunately, until the appeals process is exhausted, foie gras will remain on the menu of some California restaurants.