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