On Wednesday, the animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued Hot’s Kitchen for violating the statewide ban on selling foie gras in California. Foie gras is a delicacy of duck or goose liver, apparently swollen by force feeding, and is a traditional delicacy denounced by animal rights activists as being painful and inhumane to the poultry bred for food.
In California, sale or production of foie gras was banned in 2004 with a penalty of a $1000 fine per sale, though this appears to be the first lawsuit involving the ban. The state government had allowed farmers and restaurants a grace period up to July 1 this year to end the practice.
Apparently, the Hermosa Beach restaurant removed foie gras from its main menu, but its online menu continues to list a main item as “THE Burger” which includes a complimentary side of foie gras. In the lawsuit filed on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, PETA claims the attempt to label foie gras as a complimentary side dish was an attempt to evade the law.
Hot’s Kitchen is part of the Hot’s Restaurant Group, which has been actively trying to defend the rights of humans to enjoy the traditional delicacy.
The practice of “gavage” or force feeding birds to fatten them dates to ancient Egyptians with evidence showing the practice prevalent during 2500 BC.
Foie gras is mentioned in numerous historical accounts of Europe and Rome, and also in the works of Pliny the Elder of Greece. The Romans called foie gras iecur ficatum. Foie gras is also declared under French law as “protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France.”
Hot’s Restaurant Group has already filed a lawsuit in California in one day after the law went into effect, claiming the law was unconstitutionally vague. Their lawsuit mentions, “The statute defines ‘force feeding’ as using a process that causes a bird to ‘consume more food than a typical bird of the same species would consume voluntarily.’”
The restaurant group mentions that “In practice, the vagueness of this purported standard makes it impossible for anyone to know at what point a particular bird had been fed ‘more food’ than bird feeding law allows.”
Hot’s maintains that it does not force feed, but produces foie gras humanely by allowing the birds to feed choice and preferred food at will.