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Foie Gras Ban Back in Effect After SCOTUS Denies Review

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 08, 2019 6:00 AM

If you are a fan of foie gras, you aren't going to like this decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The High Court rejected a challenge to California's ban on the delicacy. The state law went into effect in 2012, and the U.S. Ninth Circuit upheld it.

If you are a fan of humane treatment of animals, the decision should be good news. That's because foie gras is made from the livers of duck and geese that have been force-fed.

Force-Fed Birds

The foie gras process makes the birds' livers swell up to 10 times their normal size. In 2017, the Ninth Circuit said that's against the law in California.

"It is not the livers that are force-fed, it is the birds," Judge Jacqueline Nguyen wrote for the appeals court. "The difference between foie gras produced with force-fed birds and foie gras produced with non-force-fed birds is not one of ingredient. Rather, the difference is in the treatment of the birds while alive."

The Association des Eleveurs de Canards et d'Oies du Quebec, a Canadian nonprofit that represents duck and goose farmers, appealed the decision along with other fois gras producers. It was the plaintiffs' second trip to the Supreme Court in the case, and their second loss there.

By rejecting their latest petition, the High Court left intact the Ninth Circuit ruling and the California ban.

Fat Livers

In French, foie gras means "fatty liver." Producers make it by forcing corn down the throats of ducks and geese.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say it causes the birds to develop "hepatic lipidosis, commonly known as 'fatty liver disease.'"

The California law, enacted in 2004, bans any product created by "force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird's liver beyond a normal size."

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