A Los Angeles federal judge Monday heard arguments but made no decision in a lawsuit brought by animal rights activists who contend the U.S. Department of Agriculture should remove foie gras from the food chain because the delicacy is the product of “intentionally-induced liver disease” in ducks and geese that could cause harm to consumers.
It’s not immediately clear when U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II will issue a ruling on the motions for early judgment.
The suit lodged by the Animal Legal Defense Fund stems from a 2007 petition asking the USDA to keep foie gras out of the nation’s food supply, a ban the group alleges is required by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act because the French delicacy is an adulterated food product.
The USDA denied the petition, leading the animal rights group to seek relief in the courts.
The ALDF contends that foie gras is made from the “pathologically diseased livers of ducks and geese, who are force-fed massive amounts of grain, which causes their livers to swell to 10 times their normal size and induces numerous painful conditions in the birds.”
The group pointed to a study by the National Academy of Sciences finding that the consumption of foie gras can lead to abnormal build-up of proteins in tissues and organs in humans.
Department of Justice attorney Daniel E. Bensing argued for a quick win, maintaining that the activists have no standing since there’s no evidence that eating fatty goose liver is dangerous to humans, and no one is forced to consume it.
“It is highly speculative that consuming foie gras would cause an injury,” Bensing said. “There is just no such evidence.”
At one point, Wright remarked that the ALDF lawsuit apparently grew out of “a situation where you can simply decide to launch a crusade.”
“Foie gras is not only the product of animal torture, but of intentionally-induced liver disease,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Given the potentially serious consequences of eating this diseased organ, the government should be safeguarding the consuming public from it, not fighting to keep it in our food supply.”
The organization contends in its lawsuit that the USDA “has not only failed to stop the entry of foie gras into the food supply, but has also flouted its statutory obligation to prohibit false and misleading labeling with respect to foie gras.”
“If this were a chicken, this food would be banned,” ALDF staff attorney Kelsey Eberly told the judge today.
Pending before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is a lawsuit over the validity of a 2012 California law that banned restaurants from serving foie gras.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson struck down the ban in January 2015, finding that the state law was unconstitutional because it interferes with the Poultry Products Inspections Act, which regulates poultry products and trumps state regulations.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed the ruling, with the support of ALDF and other groups.
The 9th Circuit has heard a first round of arguments on that case.
–City News Service