A federal judge ruled Wednesday that California restaurants may again put foie gras on their menus after a two and a half year ban.
Foie gras producers in New York and Canada, as well as a California restaurant group, filed the lawsuit in July 2012 after the state's voter-approved ban on producing and selling fatty duck or goose liver went into effect. They claimed the law destroyed the market for duck products in California and placed a burden on out-of-state foie gras producers.
"It does this without advancing any local interest (let alone a legitimate one) of protecting the citizens of California — or even of protecting any California duck," they said.
On Wednesday, Judge Steven Wilson agreed that the state of California could not regulate commerce taking place across state lines.
The law pitted animal-rights activists against local chefs, who debated whether force-feeding birds to enlarge their livers qualified as animal cruelty.
"This action for declatory and injunctive relief touches upon a topic impacting gourmands' stomachs and animal rights activists' hearts: foie gras," the judge said.
Still, the California law has cost out-of-state foie gras producers millions of dollars, the judge said. Existing federal laws related to poultry sales should be the standard of what can be bought and sold across state lines.