Amazon fined for selling force-fed foie gras in California

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Since 2004, the state of California has—with many fits and starts along the way—effectively banned the sale of foie gras (the livers of duck and geese) if the poultry it came from has been force-fed to enlarge the liver “beyond normal size.” Following a district court’s decision, there was a brief blip in 2015 in which foie gras appeared on California menus again, but that decision was itself overturned. Eater has a comprehensive timeline of the saga, if you’re interested.

For years, though, Amazon has been selling foie gras in California, and Reuters reports the company has agreed to pay $100,000 in fines and cease the practice following a lawsuit. Prosecutors from Los Angeles, Monterey and Santa Clara counties sued the online retailer, claiming the sale of foie gras was in violation of the 2004 law and that the process by which poultry have metal tubes inserted directly into their stomachs to pump them with food, enlarging their livers, constitutes animal cruel.


On the one hand, that does sound highly unpleasant, if not outright cruel. On the other hand, much industrialized agriculture uses methods that artificially enlarge animals beyond their normal weights; keep them in crowded and unsavory conditions; and manipulate their reproductive cycles. Is one practice more or less cruel than another? It’s perhaps easier to draw a line at foie gras, because who eats foie gras on the regular? Refusing to eat an expensive food that you encounter at a restaurant twice a year is a simpler righteous stand to take than to cut industrialized meat out of your diet entirely. And there are producers who say their foie gras is created without force feeding; Serious Eats’ J. Kenji Lopez-Alt wrote about a visit to one foie gras producer in New York’s Hudson Valley, where he found the ducks “seemed to live perfectly comfortable lives.”

So commenters, we’re curious: Where do you stand on the foie gras ban? Foie gras producers have asked the Supreme Court to take up the issue—not that we’re holding our breath—and in the meantime, we’d like to know how you feel about the practice of eating unctuous, expensive, possibly cruel poultry liver. Leave us your thoughts, concerns, questions, and screeds in the comments.