It’s been eight years since former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill No. 1520 into law, prohibiting the sale and production of foie gras in the Golden State.
On Sunday, that ban from 2004 finally goes into effect.
“The bill would prohibit a person from force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size, and would prohibit a person from hiring another person to do so. The bill would also prohibit a product from being sold in the state if it is the result of force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size. The bill would authorize an officer to issue a citation for a violation of those provisions in an amount up to $1,000 per violation per day.”
But because of loopholes in the law, supporters of the fatty duck and goose liver say foie’ll be back.
In order to skirt around the legislation, Lefebvre told Bloomberg News he will not sell the prized delicacy, but instead offer it free of charge on the chef’s menu.
Other restaurants are instating a BYOF – bring your own foie – policy: If you supply it, they’ll cook it.
While Lefebvre isn’t the only California chef planning to forge ahead foie-first, he is one of the few willing to announce it publicly.
“We plan to ‘give’ foie gras away, and charge for the accoutrements,” said a chef in San Mateo who wished to remain anonymous. “My decision is not based on enforcement at all. The right to sell something customers want is being taken. We are in the hospitality business, and hospitality is giving customers what they want.”
“We are going to sit back and see what others do first,” said another chef in San Francisco. “I’ll probably still sell it or give it away to regulars who may request it knowing that they are on our side.”
Both chefs spoke on the condition of anonymity because of activist backlash at other establishments.
“Cry me a river,” said Ingrid Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “If you can feel any compassion about an imagined threat, why can’t you feel compassion for the real torture that you have a hand in?”
Not everyone is feeling so rebellious – notably Thomas Keller, whose two leading restaurants, The French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in New York, both appeared on this year’s prestigious "World's 50 Best Restaurants" list.
“The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group will abide by the law enacted by the State of California prohibiting the sale of foie gras effective on July 1, 2012,” Keller said in a statement.
In recent months, the highly acclaimed chef became a vocal part of the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS), delivering pleas to the state’s legislators to repeal the ban.
Now that a repeal before July 1 is unlikely, more people are turning their attention toward who is actually laying down the law.
In San Francisco, a spokesperson for the police department declared the bulk of the responsibility would fall into the city’s Animal Care & Control jurisdiction.
Rebecca Katz, the director of San Francisco Animal Care & Control, said they are largely complaint driven so if there are reports of a violation, they would initiate an investigation.
“The state needs to tighten the language,” said Katz. “We have limits on our ability to enforce this law as written, and frankly, given the nature of some of our other calls, I don’t know how much enforcement we can do.”
In Los Angeles, the police department also will not ignore the claims, but refer them.
“The LAPD would have no involvement in the enforcement of the foie gras ban because it’s a state mandated ordinance and it’s up to the county and state health departments to look into complaints or enforcement issues,” said Richard French, a spokesperson for the LAPD.
The scanty measures have left animal-rights activists flabbergasted.
“If the police don’t come up with a plan, then we will compel them to come up with an enforcement plan,” said Newkirk.
Newkirk encourages anti-foie activists to go to these restaurants and cause a flap. “Sit down and smoke a cigarette,” she advises.
According to Newkirk, the idea is that when the police come, they can not enact selective enforcement – and would have to write-up the restaurant for serving foie gras along with the activists for disturbing the peace.
Public squabbles aside, there is one issue the activists and supporters can agree on: educating the public.
“I think as the public becomes more informed as to how this happened, we will gain support to overturn the ban,” said the chef in San Francisco.
Newkirk agrees, but hopes for a markedly different outcome. “People will come to see it. People will come to feel ostracized and they’ll be labeled as really selfish gluttons.”
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