LOS ANGELES – Foie gras can be sold to customers in California if it’s not produced or paid for within the state, a US District Court judge ruled.
Judge Stephen Wilson of the US District Court for the Central District of California found that the state’s ban on foie gras was not intended to be a total ban. It did not address the “possession, importation or receipt of foie gras” within the state. Rather, the intent of the legislation was to prevent force-feeding of birds in California.
“There is no evidence that California intended to completely ban the receipt or possession of foie gras in California, and there is ample evidence that this was not California’s intent,” Wilson said.
So, the sale of foie gras does not violate state law when:
- The seller is located outside of California.
- The foie gras being purchased is not present within California at the time of sale.
- The transaction is processed outside of California (via phone, fax, email, website, or otherwise).
- Payment is received and processed outside of California, and The foie gas is given to the purchaser or a third-party delivery service outside of California, and “[t]he shipping company [or purchaser] thereafter transports the product to the recipient designated by the purchaser,” even if the recipient is in California.
Wilson noted that the ruling does not encompass situations where the seller is present in California during the sale, or the foie gras is already present in California when the sale is made. And, it’s still illegal for restaurants to serve foie gras.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York, together with an association of Canadian foie gras producers, challenged California's foie gras ban which resulted in the loss of nearly one-third of their sales. Now, these out-of-state producers of foie gras say they prepared to meet California’s demand for foie gras.
“We are gratified that the Court recognized that California’s misguided ban was never intended to apply to foie gras products from out‐of‐state producers that are shipped to happy consumers in California,” said Marcus Henley, vice president of Hudson Valley Foie Gras.
The Catskill Foie Gras Collective, a consortium of duck farms in Sullivan County, New York and Canada announced they will begin selling foie gras online by phone.
“We are very grateful for this victory,” said Sergio Saravia, president of La Belle Farm. “This victory is symbolic that even in the most trying times, if we stand together, we will persevere.”
Foie gras has been a source of controversy because it is produced using gavage, or force-feeding, geese and ducks to create fatty livers. Animal welfare groups argue the practice is inhumane.
On Jan. 6, the Supreme Court ended more than seven years of legal wrangling over the issue when the justices declined to hear the case, effectively killing an attempt to overturn the ban on the production and sale of foie gras in California.