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Is Foie Gras Illegal in the US?

Foie gras production has been outlawed in the state of California and New York City, but shockingly, it remains legal all over the US.

California first banned the production and sale of foie gras by force-feeding in 2004. This law prohibited any products made by force-feeding birds with the intent to enlarge their livers from being produced or sold in the state starting in 2012. While individuals are still permitted to purchase foie gras out of state and consume it, no California business is allowed to sell the product. Since 2012, the law has remained in effect, despite legal challenges in 2015 and 2019 attempting to overturn it.

In 2019, New York City prohibited the sale of foie gras made from force-fed birds, to take effect in 2022.

Foie gras, which is French for “fat liver,” is obtained by force-feeding ducks and geese. Farmers shove metal or plastic tubes down the throats of ducks and geese and pump large amounts of food into their stomachs. This causes their livers to enlarge ten times their normal size and become fatty and diseased. Birds suffer from the trauma of repeated force-feedings as well as internal injuries, breathing problems caused by their enlarged livers, and painful infections.

Force-feeding ducks is already illegal in several countries

Force-feeding ducks and geese to produce foie gras is already banned in the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Germany and Turkey. The European Food Safety Authority’s Panel on Animal Health and Welfare has determined that force-feeding is detrimental to the welfare of birds, and the European Parliament has called the practice “cruel and unnecessary.”

Israel was once the third largest foie gras producer globally, but in 2003 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that force-feeding ducks and geese violated the 1994 Protection of Animals Law. In 2013 the Israeli government expanded the ban to forbid the commercial trade and sale of foie gras.

India used to import foie gras from large farms in France and Spain, but after an Animal Equality investigation uncovered the pain and distress of force-fed birds at those farms, we showed our video footage to government officials in India. They were so convinced of the cruelty of force-feeding that in 2014, India instituted a nationwide ban on foie gras–and became the first country in the world to forbid both production and import.

In the United Kingdom, it’s illegal to force-feed birds to make foie gras, but the product can still be imported into the country. The UK buys around 220 tons of foie gras annually, which means that even if force-feeding isn’t permitted within UK borders, the country still supports the practice elsewhere in the world. Nearly 250,000 ducks and geese in France, Spain and Hungary are force-fed and killed to meet the UK’s demand for this product.

Animal Equality is working to change that, and for the past several years we’ve been mobilizing support for a ban on the import and sale of foie gras made by force-feeding in the UK. In 2021, we delivered over 250,000 signatures from British citizens accompanied by UK celebrities Ricky Gervais and Peter Egan supporting a ban directly to the Prime Minister’s home. The Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) that oversees food production standards, has stated that force-feeding ducks and geese to produce foie gras raises serious welfare concerns and is considering additional restrictions on the product’s sale–making an import ban even more likely in the near future.

Why isn’t foie gras banned in the United States?

For the overwhelming majority of people, foie gras is not a normal part of their diet, but rather a luxury product that they may never try in their lives. It seems that banning such a cruel product would make sense, so why is foie gras still legal in so many US states?

Raising awareness about the inhumane force-feeding of birds is an important step in getting this product outlawed. That’s why Animal Equality is taking on this industry by campaigning to ban the production and sale of foie gras.

Our work to outlaw foie gras

In 2022, Animal Equality launched a nationwide petition calling for an end to the production and sale of foie gras in the US. We knew, based on our decades of success with banning foie gras in countries like India and in supermarkets all over Europe, that the time for a US ban was long past due.

In 2019, Animal Equality and other animal protection organizations successfully pushed the city of New York to permanently ban products obtained from force-feeding. After our success in New York City, we’re going from state to state to introduce legislation prohibiting the sale and production of foie gras all over the US.

We are currently focusing our efforts in the state of Rhode Island, where we’re working with several animal protection organizations to make sure state bill HB 6663 is passed. This bill prohibits the sale and production of foie gras, including imported products, and will prevent suffering in thousands of ducks and geese.

Why ban foie gras sale and import?

Simply banning the production of foie gras is not enough. If the US were to outlaw foie gras production, imports and sales of foie gras made elsewhere can still cause significant suffering for birds.

But without a market for foie gras, ducks and geese would not be force-fed and slaughtered to make this product. As long as countries like the US allow foie gras to be imported and sold, millions of ducks and geese will continue to suffer.

That’s why we’re lobbying for laws that make the import and sale of foie gras illegal–so no more birds have to endure this inhumane procedure.

What you can do

Foie gras is cruel and unnecessary, but there’s hope for ducks and geese used and killed for this industry. As more people like you start to question the methods that go into making foie gras, we’re going to see more and more laws banning its creation and sale.

You can help by signing our nationwide petition and sharing it with everyone you know.

And one of the best ways you can prevent animal suffering is by leaving them off your plate.

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