Nanny State

The End of California's Foie Gras Ban is a Win for Food Freedom


Thanks to a federal court decision, California's foie gras ban—which only took effect eight years after its passage in 2004 so cowardly term-limited legislators would no longer be in office—has been struck down by a federal judge.

That's good news, I argue in a new Time column:

In an age of artisanal everything and skyrocketing interest in all sorts of new and innovative cuisine, food freedom is every bit as important as rights to free speech and alternative sexuality.

Indeed, what we cook and what we eat have become every bit as much an arena of individual expression as whom we vote for and whom we marry. Raw milk producers still labor under draconian regulations and federal raids despite strong demand for their products by impeccably informed consumers. In a world in which caffeine-enhanced Four Loko has been prohibited, it's a wonder that Irish coffee is still available.

As Baylen Linnekin argued here years ago, the ban was always constitutionally vague and effectively unenforceable. But if People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other supporters of the ban really want to end the demand for foie gras, they need to turn to persuasion rather than state coercion.

In order to ban a choice that is as personal as food, government at any level should have extremely compelling reasons related to public health and safety for doing so. Simply finding something offensive is no more a warrant for prohibition than censoring art that you find disturbing….

People opposed to foie gras have [other means] of carrying the day. They can work to end the market for foie gras and other animal products through persuasion and informational campaigns. But they cannot and should not bank on using the coercive power of the state to force their subjective value judgements on the rest of us who have a taste for foie gras or other delicacies they find abhorrent.

And they should assiduously make sure that tax dollars are not going to support food they would never eat. That's a likely point of agreement between them and libertarian defenders of the right to cook and eat what we want. A central part of the food freedom agenda is freedom from subsidizing other people's preferences. Keep Food Legal's mission statement emphasizes that the group "also support[s] ending agricultural subsidies, which distort the market and help lead to problems like obesity and environmental degradation."

Read the full article here.

Related video: The Foie Gras Fight—Animal Cruelty or Animal Rights Propaganda?

NEXT: Rand Paul v. Hillary Clinton: Will Pot Give Him the Electoral Edge?

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  1. Well, I’ve lived to see libertarianism do a 180 on gay marriage. Hopefully I’ll see libertarianism similarly come to its senses on animal cruelty. Stay pure Reason, and keep on asking why libertarianism as a whole fails to gain traction and win elections.

    1. Well, I’ve lived to see libertarianism do a 180 on gay marriage.

      No you haven’t.

    2. Or maybe people will realize that application of human standards to geese maybe isn’t the smartest thing in the world. Geese don’t have gag reflexes and mother geese force feed their brood by thrusting their beaks into the open maws of their chicks.

      1. Or maybe the geese don’t like it, sorta like the fish not liking getting caught with a hook in its mouth.
        Should we outlaw fish as a food?

        1. Actually, the geese and ducks do like it. They flock to the feed stations to receive their daily rations. The practice started with the Romans, who observed that migrating birds routinely stuffed themselves to engorge their livers and build up energy reserves for their migration. The Romans learned how to make a natural form of behavior work in an animal-husbandry situation.

          Having had the personal experience of processing foie-gras ducks, I can say that they are not at all diseased, just fat and tasty.

    3. Yes Tonyo, libertarianism should abandon its principles to join the fringe of the animal rights movement, that’ll win it lots of traction…

      Pauline Kael to the white courtesy phone, Kael to the courtesy phone.

      1. Other readers, also note that Tonyo has been repeatedly pressed on just what he considers “animal cruelty” and he is completely incapable of giving a concrete answer. To people who give a shit about liberty that should raise a big red flag.

  2. Tonio|1.9.15 @ 4:33PM|#
    …”Hopefully I’ll see libertarianism similarly come to its senses on animal cruelty”…

    You mean outlaw certain foods?

    1. No ‘vegan’ ‘organic’ ‘GMO-free’ crap is to be brought near by home or table.

    2. Tonyo is a fascist who plays like he’s a libertarian.

      He really doesn’t like free markets or freedom of association.

      1. Ah, good… others are noticing that, too… Yay!

  3. I saw a video of the farmer doing gavage once and basically as soon as he stepped in the pen, he got mobbed by the ducks all trying to be the first to be fed.

    It’s hard to consider it cruel when the ducks apparently love it.

  4. Fortunately, California has no such restrictions on raising snails for food. So when the rich people in Merced decide to go to Fresno on the new bullet train, they’ll probably have a whole train car full of snails behind the dining car. If the snail car is marked with an “S”, we can all stand in the Central Valley and say, “look at that S-car go!”

    1. “we can all stand in the Central Valley and say, “look at that S-car go!””

      Booooooooo! Booooo! Where’s that tomato?

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