California Foie Gras Ban Starts July 1

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State Senate Bill 1520, a.k.a. the California foie gras law, was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on September 29, 2004. San Francisco Chronicle readers woke up to the reminder that July 1, 2012 -- the date the foie gras ban is to go into effect -- is right around the corner.

What does the California foie gras law say?

SB 1520 makes it illegal to force-feed a bird with the intent of enlarging the animal's liver "beyond normal size." It is also illegal to hire a third party to do so. Any product made from the enlarged liver of a force-fed bird -- such as foie gras -- may not be sold in the State of California. Violations of the California foie gras law may result in citations "in an amount up to $1,000 per violation per day." Enforcement of the law begins on July 1.

Why did enforcement of the law not begin sooner?

California legislators wanted to give local businesses engaged in the production of foie gras an opportunity to change their business practices. A 2004 letter to the senate committee discussing the foie gras ban -- written by a veterinarian and posted on the Artisan Foie Gras website -- identifies Sonoma Foie Gras as "the only foie gras producer in California."

Why do opponents of the California foie gras ban believe the law to be unjustified?

The aforementioned doctor of veterinary medicine outlined that blanket legislation in the Golden State is unjustified, since there is only one recognized foie gras producer. This particular facility meets all the humane practice standards required by existing law and an inspection showed that "birds are treated well within the standards of humane treatment."

How do restaurants serving foie gras dishes feel about the upcoming ban enforcement?

The SF Chronicle highlights that French chefs in particular have a difficult time reconciling the state law with what they consider a culinary staple. "We serve foie gras because we simply want to exercise our freedom of choice to do so," the owner of Txoko and Naked Lunch explains. This restaurateur credits a clandestine "vegan agenda" for the ban on a luxury meat-based food item. San Francisco's Lafitte Restaurant has scheduled a "FU Foie Gras 2012 Series," which includes five ounces of foie gras on July 11 -- well after the ban takes effect.

What do animals rights activists say?

The Animal Protection and Rescue League posted a 2011 YouTube video showing the force-feeding of ducks and geese at two facilities, once of which is identified as the Sonoma facility. The video shows sick and dead birds in their cages. Animal rights activists question the practice of artificially fattening the birds for the sake of bigger livers. The activists also highlight that force-feeding leads to direct negative consequences to the animals' wellbeing prior to slaughter.

Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.

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