Foie Gras

There are times when I am very glad I don’t have to preside over cases in California. The idea of spending my time dealing with a ban on foie gras would be more than I can take.

A federal district judge in California was not so lucky. He had to decide whether California’s law banning foie gras ran a fowl of federal law. He said it did. See here. But the “ducks are us” crowd promise an appeal. See here.

Photo credit: Global Action in the Interest of Animals and reproduced per Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Photo credit: Global Action in the Interest of Animals and reproduced per Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. As required by the license, no change was made to the photo.

This controversy reminds me that some things are more important than others. To wit:

The French delicacy Foie Gras is obtained by removing baby geese from their families, terrifying them and making them lead miserable, sordid existences against their will before finally allowing them to be slaughtered in cold blood at a very young age, by which point death is almost certainly the best option for them anyway.

Still, what’s good for the goose is good for Uganda.*


*H/t Sickipedia.

18 responses

  1. I tried this “delicacy” this summer and thought this seems like a lot of work for something that isn’t very good.
    Give me Spam and a box a crackers over that stuff any day.

  2. Judge, as I’m sure you recognize, the question of federal preemption goes far beyond fatty goose liver. It’s an essential part of the working out of our complex federal system.

    I confess that I have not studied the text of the relevant federal statutes, but my liver tells me that if California wants to act against animal cruelty, it should be able to do so. It’s not just a matter of overfed geese–California has recently decreed that laying hens must have more room during their short, benighted lives, and that pigs must have a bit of space to move around before they become bacon. I think those are good ideas, and that states–the laboratories of democracy–should be able to try them. And I doubt that Congress ever intended to forbid such enactments.

  3. Compelling visual as usual. In the Northern District of California you also have big plaintiff’s firms who apparently file Rule 12 motions on affirmative defenses as standard operating procedure. At least you don’t have to deal with a lot of those in Nebraska.

  4. I like this quote from a lawyer:

    The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi

  5. Thank the Supremes in Twombley and Iqbal. We get Rule 12 motions all the time, saying that our complaints are not sufficiently “plausible” (whatever that might mean. When we get boiler-plate affirmative defenses (such as raising the statute of limitations when there is NO doubt that the issue does not exist), why not reply in kind. I don’t usually do that, but what’s sauce for the goose…

  6. More for the rest of us then. When it became legal again – we were the first in line at our local steak place to partake.

  7. “Mahatma Gandhi said, “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals.” The truth in this statement should prompt police, investigators and prosecutors to vigorously investigate and prosecute – to the fullest degree possible – those who abuse animals in America. While cruelty to animals is a crime in all 50 states, and carries a felony sentence in 43 states plus the District of Columbia for severe animal abuse and 48 states for felony level dog fighting offenses – has, in the past, been a crime that is rarely investigated and prosecuted. Fortunately, this is now changing. The well-worn excuse by many law enforcement officials – that “it’s just a dog,” and “we should be focusing on crimes against people” — shows a frightening lack of understanding of the ramifications of animal cruelty and its insidious affects on the animal’s “human family,” and other law abiding citizens. Animal cruelty can be linked to the vast majority of serial killers, many habitual violent offenders, and most children and teens who kill.

    If we pay attention to children and youth who perform acts of cruelty on animals and take immediate action to stop their behavior, future crimes can be prevented and lives may be saved. Here is a very short list, that’s part of a very long list, of examples of adult serial killers – and young killers — who predicted their futures by torturing and killing animals in their early years. Their behavior seems to have been ignored. Had someone helped them by taking their animal abuse seriously, and sought the help of law enforcement and others who understand the seriousness of this behavior, who knows how many lives could have been saved?

    *The school shootings that took place between 1997 and 2001 in: Pearl, MS; West Paducah, KY; Jonesbobo, AK; Springfield, OR; Littleton, CO; Conyers, GA; and San Diego, CA ALL contain a common element. Prior to killing their classmates and teachers, ALL of the boys involved in these school shootings had performed acts of animal cruelty such as: shooting dogs, setting cats on fire, blowing up cows and killing other small animals, prior to killing humans.

    *Albert DeSalvo, The Boston Strangler killed 13 women. When he was a boy he put cats and dogs into orange crates and shot arrows through the slats to kill them.

    *Ted Bundy, was a serial rapist and killer of at least 30 women. As a youth he tortured and killed animals.

    *Jeffrey Dahmer, killed and cannibalized at least 17 people. As a boy, he killed and impaled the heads of cats and dogs on sticks.

    *Dennis Rader, the BTK killer in Wichita, KS, killed at least 10 people. He abused and killed animals for practice prior to killing people.

    The lesson is that many potential killers can be recognized in their youth. Boys who torture and kill animals are not just “boys being boys” or “going through a phase.” Animal abuse is a serious warning sign. As anthropologist Margaret Mead once noted, “One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it.” As shown above, the results of doing little or nothing are chilling.

    When acts of animal cruelty are known or suspected, they should be reported to the proper authorities, such as police, local animal control agencies, humane societies and animal shelters. In most instances, these officials have the authority to enforce state and local laws related to animal abuse. Reporting can be done anonymously. By early reporting suspicion of animal abuse by a youth, and providing appropriate punishment and treatment, the number of lives that could be saved is literally incalculable.”

    (National District Attorneys Association, emphasis added).

  8. An alternate name for this delicacy is Strasbourg goose, the European Human Rights Court is also called the Strasbourg Court. I am not sure of the irony, but we do have an odd indifference to animal suffering. Animals may not have rights but they can be wronged. Ignoring animal suffering perhaps show that there are more grown versions of the frightening boys that Dredd described.

  9. repentinglawyer,

    It was all a quote from the NDAA page.

    Wish I was smart enough to know all that myself, but truth be told, I learned it from them.

    Have a good one.

  10. California can act against animal cruelty within its borders and continues to do so. The federal court did not strike down the ban on producing foie gras within the state. It did strike down the ban on the sale of foie gras however.

    As to you second point, I think that Congress very likely did intend to create a comprehensive regulatory system for the production and delivery of polutry products. Whether they ought to have done so is another question. And California has no problem cheering on federal preemption of other states’ laws when it fits their political proclivities. Something something what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  11. Youngster,

    Here in the middle of the country where meat packing plants are huge and numerous, I have quite a different outlook on the production of animals for food. Additionally, and while I know this issue is important to the litigants,fighting about foie gras in federal court seems, well to be utterly candid, a frivolous use of the court’s scarce resources. All the best.


  12. Re: “Here in the middle of the country where meat packing plants are huge and numerous, I have quite a different outlook on the production of animals for food.”

    Does that mean your compassion toward animals as sentient beings enhanced your outlook, as in rejecting the “normalization of violence” accepted to put dinner on the table? See, The human cost of animal suffering, Mark Bittman, NYT, March 13, 2012 and “Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight,” published by Timothy Pachirat.

    Or does that mean the huge financial interests of the meat packing plants trumps your compassion for animals as sentient beings? If so, consider Job 12:7-10 NIV “But ask the animals, and they will teach you…”

    Also consider Animal-Human Equality – Noah and the Flood. The equality of animals and humans is immortalized in the biblical story of Noah and the Flood. Noah was commanded to save every species of animal on Earth; in contrast only a relatively few human beings were saved from the flood.

    “And God said unto Noah…make thee an ark of gopher wood…the length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits…And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.”

    Book of Genesis, beginning chapter 6, verse 13. (Note, the story of Noah is found in many faiths)

  13. Dear Mr. Gillespie,

    You suggest that animals are sentient beings. That is correct for some animals and incorrect for others. Moreover, that an animal is sentient does not mean as a scientific matter that an animal suffers pain in the same way that a human being suffers pain. In case you might think me indifferent to matters such as this, I note, with pride, that my son, a biologist, has written, with another professor, an interesting piece about pain, fishes and related matters, that has been cited over 100 times by other academics. See P.S. Davie, R.K. Kopf, Physiology, behaviour and welfare of fish during recreational fishing and after release, New Zealand Veterinary Journal (2006). Lastly, I do not regard the bible as having anything relevant to say on this subject.

    All the best.


  14. Thank you Judge. I appreciate your response, and your blog. And thank you for the citation to the article by your son.

    Typical warm-blooded farm animals are sentient beings, yet their legal status as property undermines their well-being, in my view. In State of New Jersey v. ISE America, a poultry company was convicted of cruelly discarding live chickens in trash cans. The conviction was overturned on appeal, in part because the court found the company had only six employees overseeing 1.2 million laying hens, with each worker tending to 200,000 chickens it remained unproven they were aware of those particular birds dying in a trash can. But the company’s initial defense contended the birds were trash anyway:

    [Attorney]: ” We contend, Your Honor, that clearly my client meets the requirements [of the law]. Clearly it’s a commercial farm. And clearly the handling of chickens, and how chickens are discarded, falls into agricultural management practices of my client. And we’ve…litigated this issue before in this county with respect to my client and how it handles its manure…”

    [The Court]: Isn’t there a big distinction between manure and live animals?

    [Attorney]: No, Your Honor. Because the Right to Farm Act protects us in the operation of our farm and all of the agricultural management practices employed by our firm.”

%d bloggers like this: