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Judge throws out California foie gras ban

"All of my sous chefs are jumping up and down," Ken Frank of La Toque in Napa said when he learned a judge had thrown out California's ban on foie gras.

By Frances Burns

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Some California restaurants began serving foie gras within hours of a federal judge's ruling that the state's ban on the delicacy violates federal law.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson in Los Angeles found the state was in violation of the Poultry Products Inspections Act. He ruled Wednesday that the law gives the federal government, not the states, the responsibility for regulating the sale of poultry.

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The law took effect in 2012, eight years after the legislature passed it. Advocates argued that force-feeding geese so their livers can be used for the pate is animal cruelty.

Wilson acknowledged both sides. He said his decision "touches upon a topic impacting gourmands' stomachs and animal-rights activists' hearts."

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One San Francisco restaurant, Dirty Habit, celebrated the ruling by creating a special menu of four courses of foie gras for Wednesday night. Ken Frank, the owner and head chef of La Toque in Napa, north of San Francisco, said foie gras would be back on the menu immediately.

"All of my sous chefs are jumping up and down," Frank told the San Francisco Chronicle. "This means chefs in California can cook with their favorite ingredient, just like chefs everywhere else in the world."

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Producing foie gras remains illegal in California. Most was imported so that is expected to have little effect on restaurants.

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The plaintiffs included Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a New York supplier, and an association of poultry farmers in Quebec as well as California restaurant owners.

Backers of the law won the first legal round when federal courts rejected arguments that California was interfering with interstate commerce. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review that decision last year.

The state has not said if it will appeal Wilson's ruling. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals promised to keep up the fight one way or another.

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"A line will be drawn in the sand outside any restaurant that goes back to serving this 'torture in a tin,' and whoever crosses that line identifies themselves with gluttony that cannot control itself even to the point of torturing animals," President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement.

Frank and some other restaurant owners had continued to serve foie gras, giving patrons complimentary portions.

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