Action Alert: Oppose The Sonoma Foie Gras Act
A disturbing turn of events requires your immediate action.
Legislation that, on its face, prohibits the sale and production of foie gras in California is being turned completely inside out by politicking. Rather than stopping cruelty, SB 1520 now allows the legalized torture of ducks and geese for many years to come. The revised bill is better named the Sonoma Foie Gras Protection Act.
The production of foie gras is infamously harrowing. Beginning at about 12 weeks of age, ducks and geese suffer through multiple daily feedings where grain is forcibly pumped directly into their stomachs through a long pipe that is crammed down their throats. These force feedings continue until their livers are so overloaded and swollen that the animals can barely move. The birds are then slaughtered for the purpose of removing their abnormally swollen livers, which are then marketed as the “delicacy” called foie gras.
There are three commercial producers of foie gras in the United States that we know of. One of them, Sonoma Foie Gras, is based in California. Within the last year, there has been extensive media coverage of the horrific conditions at the Sonoma Foie Gras factory. The news coverage was prompted by activists who documented the gruesome conditions. A subsequent lawsuit filed against Sonoma Foie Gras alleged that the company’s practices violated California’s existing animal cruelty laws.
Senate President Pro Tem John Burton then introduced SB 1520. In its original form, the bill would have stopped the torture of ducks by Sonoma Foie Gras. And it would have banned the sale of foie gras.
Since then, the bill’s sponsors have betrayed their original intent and have agreed to eliminate even the possibility of a ban on foie gras until the year 2012.
Moreover, Sonoma Foie Gras insisted that SB 1520 formally and explicitly declare that its force-feeding practices be declared legal under California law until 2012.
Still worse, SB 1520 now protects this company from both civil and criminal actions. This would include the outright dismissal of any pending lawsuits that have been filed against it by activist organizations. The advocacy groups who promoted the bill agreed to eviscerate the bill in this way.
Although the language of the bill promises a ban in 2012, the political reality is that the company is using the extra time in the amendment to evade its purpose. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported, “If the bill’s enacted in law, Gonzalez says he’d use the 71/2 year grace period to prove that all of his ducks are treated humanely…Ultimately, he hopes the law would be overturned.” (“Sonoma Foie Gras Producer Hopes to Show Process Humane.” 12 July 2004)
The bottom line is this: Sonoma Foie Gras was faced with extinction. Now, it is being guaranteed heretofore unheard-of protection. The only winner, if this legislation becomes law, is Sonoma Foie Gras. The losers are the ducks and the geese.
The SB 1520 Scorecard: The winners and losers
The animal abusers (Sonoma Foie Gras) receive the following:
- Force-feeding of birds explicitly declared legal in California through 2012
- Sonoma Foie Gras gets complete and total immunity from any criminal charges related to its force-feeding through 2012
- Sonoma Foie Gras is given absolute immunity from civil lawsuits related to forced-feeding through 2012
- Any lawsuits currently pending against Sonoma Foie Gras related to forced-feeding, or future lawsuits trying to protect the birds, will be quashed
- Sonoma Foie Gras potentially saves tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees funds that can then be devoted to producing and promoting foie gras
- Sonoma Foie Gras avoids the press coverage that could have resulted from any cruelty related lawsuit or criminal charges
- Armed with its own studies and with the support of the legislature, Sonoma Foie Gras could very easily avoid restriction, even after the year 2012
- Sonoma Foie Gras can expand its operations and increase the number of birds being force-fed
What the public gets:
- Watching the fanfare of an illusory “victory”
Update on SB 1520: The Sonoma Foie Gras Act
On Tuesday, August 24, The California Assembly voted 44-28 to approve SB 1520.
In his testimony, Assemblyperson Joe Nation stated: “I want to emphasize this. Sonoma Foie Gras, the only producer of foie gras in California, supports SB 1520.”
In fact, Somoma Foie Gras retained a lobbyist to work on getting the bill passed.
Please immediately contact Gov. Schwarzenegger. Ask him to veto SB 1520. Tell him that SB 1520 benefits the state’s foie gras producer, and its weakening amendments make matters worse for ducks—at least 440,000 that will be force-fed through the year 2012—and likely beyond.
You can contact the governor’s office at 916-445-2841 or by fax at 916-445-4633 http://www.governor.ca.gov.
Priscilla Feral President,
Friends of Animals