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Five years ago this very week I wrote an article about the sheer inanity of Chicago’s foie gras ban, the first ban to take effect in this country. It was around that time that Chef Didier Durand of Cyrano’s in Chicago (who currently serves as Keep Food Legal’s board chairman) coined the term “duck-easy” to describe the underground meals served in his and other restaurants in the city to protest and fight back against the law.
With California chefs launching their own underground foie gras dinners and otherwise providing foie gras to paying customers even after the law took effect, it would have been easy to let the state’s ban stand in the face of little or no enforcement. As the popularity of such dinners has shown, there’s something exciting about dining on such forbidden fruits.
But there’s also something very obviously absurd about banning a food. It’s notable that both Gov. Schwarzenegger and then-Chicago Mayor Richard Daley used the same word—“silly”—to refer to the foie gras laws in their respective jurisdictions. (While Schwarzenegger was complicit in signing the bird feeding bill into law, Daley deserves credit for vocally opposing and supporting the successful repeal of his city’s foie gras ban.)
But the idea of banning the production and sale of foie gras is more than just silly. California’s lone foie gras producer Guillermo Gonzalez of Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras—a former Keep Food Legal board member—is no longer producing foie gras in California. His family business of more than two decades teeters on the edge.
That's not silly. It's an outrage.
Silly laws like the “foie gras ban” have real victims. Let’s hope this lawsuit forces California legislators and their counterparts around the country to learn that lesson.
Baylen J. Linnekin, a lawyer, is executive director of Keep Food Legal, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that advocates in favor of food freedom—the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat, and drink the foods of our own choosing.