Foie gras ban may get lenient enforcement

Foie gras lovers from Los Angeles to San Francisco are flocking to restaurants this week to savor the delicacy before a state ban takes effect Sunday. The taste may not be their last.

Producing or selling the engorged livers of force-fed ducks and geese will be prohibited under the law. Some of those responsible for enforcing it, however, have little interest in pursuing chefs who, say, offer it free, perhaps in conjunction with pricey pieces of toast.

“This is not a crime that would be investigated by the LAPD or likely any other municipal police department,” Los Angeles Police Department Officer KarenRayner said in an email. The law pits California chefs and foie gras makers against animal-rights advocates who see cruelty in fattening the birds by overfeeding them through a tube to produce the fatty liver. Suppliers say the process doesn’t hurt the animals, whose digestive tracts aren’t comparable to humans.

Chefs who defy the ban are subject to a $1,000 citation under legislation passed in 2004. Implementation was delayed to give the food industry time to adjust.

“I’m not aware of any plans for us to enforce it,” San Francisco Police Department Sgt. Michael Andraychak said in an interview.

Kathleen Brown, deputy director of the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control, which is responsible for animal welfare, said her agency won’t issue citations to chefs who give away foie gras as a sample or a bonus to a dish, or who prepare the meat brought in by customers who buy it outside California.

Animal-rights advocates said they’ll go after cooks who continue serving the food.

“We’re going to come down like a hammer on any chef or restaurant that wants to continue serving this very cruel product,” Bryan Pease, co-founder of the Animal Protection and Rescue League in San Diego, said in a telephone interview.

“If we find somebody still serving that product, the gloves are going to come off and we’ll use every legal means available to shut that place down, including lawsuits, protests and boycotts,” Pease said.

Mark Pastore, owner of Incanto, a San Francisco restaurant, said he’s open to charging a “foie-kage fee,” akin to corkage, to prepare the meat purchased in another state.

Chef Roland Passot, owner of Michelin-rated San Francisco restaurant La Folie, said he’d cook foie gras brought in by a customer. The French-born Passot said his patrons were ordering foie gras at three times the usual rate. He’s serving a six-course foie gras dinner every night this week for $175 per person.


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