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Foie Gras Fight Goes National, Celebrity Chef Speaks Out

Animal rights groups contend that ducks suffer in the production of the food and that it may be harmful to humans.

Several animal rights groups filed suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Los Angeles last week, claiming the agency is violating federal law by allowing adulterated poultry -- in the form of foie gras -- to be sold to consumers, according to court papers.

 “Last year’s industry-wide investigation, posted at www.StopForceFeeding.com, shows that foie gras production is just as inhumane as when California’s foie gras ban was passed seven years ago," said Bryan Pease, of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, which filed their own suit against Hot’s Kitchen in Hermosa Beach.

The ALDF contents that the unhealthy force-feeding of birds for foie gras production has been banned because of its "egregious cruelty in over a dozen countries," including a ban in California that goes into effect in July.

Citing a study published by the National Academy of Sciences on the consumption of foie gras, the organization also claims that the delicacy is made from the pathologically diseased livers of ducks and may cause illnesses in humans, according to a statement.

Foie gras is made from the livers of ducks who are force-fed massive amounts of grain, which causes their livers to swell to 10 times their normal size, according to the complaint.

Advocates of the delicacy, who include celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, have said that the ducks do not suffer any pain during the force-feeding of the grain and that people have a misconception of the food.

Bourdain has also spoken out on Twitter against what he calls the ban's supporters' bullying tactics, which have included vandalizing and the physical threats of chefs.

“Look at anti-foie tactics: anonymous threats. Arson. Vandalism. Extortion. Should use RICO statutes on these people,” Bourdain stated on Twitter last week. “Animal rights? And then you send telephoto shots of people's children to them? Threaten their families?”

A group of chefs mostly in Northern California have signed a petition seeking to keep foie gras sales legal and develop new regulations for raising the birds.

In the Southland, some of the area's against the pending ban on foie gras by taking to the kitchen tonight for a one-night "battle'' with their Northern California counterparts to raise funds for the effort to replace the ban with humane farming practices.

“Federal law already bans the harvesting of food products from diseased animals,'' ALDF litigation director Carter Dillard said. "But the USDA is essentially beholden to the industry.''

The delicacy “sells very well to an extreme population of about one percent'' of consumers, Dillard said.

-City News Service contributed to this report.

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