Chefs try for last minute appeal of foie gras ban

April 30, 2012 8:05:29 PM PDT
They have had seven years to prepare, but Monday, top chefs and restaurant owners in California descended on the Capitol for a last minute attempt to repeal the upcoming ban on foie gras.

The state passed a ban after the ABC7 News I-Tteam exposed, in a series of reports, how the ducks used for foie gras are treated.

Many of California's top restaurants serve foie gras because their customers demand it. But starting July 1, they are forbidden to serve the enlarged liver if it's the result of force-feeding the bird to grow the organ about ten times beyond the normal size.

Chef Roland Passot of San Francisco's La Folie is furious. The French native says government shouldn't tell people what they can't eat and that the process to make foie gras is not cruel to animals," Passot said.

"It is a force feed, but the duck doesn't have any gag reflexes, so when you put a tube into the throat, it's like swallowing a fish in the ocean."

More than 100 well-known California chefs, from Tyler Florence and the French Laundry's Thomas Keller, have joined a petition to keep foie gras on California menus by proposing new and humane rules surrounding the treatment of the birds.

They delivered it to California State Assembly Speaker John Perez, hoping he'd help repeal the law.

Former Senate President John Burton spearheaded the original ban in 2004, which gave the industry more than seven years to comply. The foie gras ban was inspired by video showing how animals are fed through a tube up to three times a day for 21 days, abnormally fattening the liver.

"They had their opportunities; they're just a bunch of selfish, people who want to continue profiting, if you will, on the suffering of helpless geese and ducks," Burton said.

Animal rights groups say the industry should have used the time to develop a better way to make foie gras.

"Force feeding of animals is fundamentally inhumane and this is the practice that is still used," Humane Society of the United States spokesperson Jennifer Fearing said.

Many chefs question, though, why this is such a priority when so many other things are wrong with the state.

"We cannot balance the budget, we don't have enough policemen, we don't have enough firemen, we don't have an educational system," Passot said.

Los Angeles restaurateur Wolfgang Puck favors the ban. He said in a letter to other chefs that the science so clear, countries in Europe as well as Israel has banned the force-feeding for foie gras.


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