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Devotees hope to duck California foie gras ban

LOS ANGELES--Californian foie gras fans stuffed themselves at gastronomic last suppers this weekend, as a ban on the delicacy finally came into force after years of wrangling.

But even before the Sunday deadline, devotees of the prized French foodstuff — fatty liver, made by force-feeding ducks or geese — had worked on ways to get round the ban, dubbed 'foie-maggedon” by some.

While animal rights groups hailed the law which outlaws selling or making foie gras — pushed through by ex-Governor Arnold Scwarzenegger — pro-foie gras supporters said they hope it will eventually be repealed.

“I think many people are hopeful” the ban will be reversed, said a spokeswoman for the two Michelin-starred Melisse restaurant in Santa Monica, which has been serving a “Foie Gras for All” menu since January.

The US$185-a-head menu includes Foie Gras Royale with Blackberry Gelee, Caramelized Buttermilk Mousse, Foie Gras and Dover Sole, followed for dessert by “something sweet with foie” — foie gras ice cream has been on the menu.

“They've been sold out all week and selling the all foie dinners to packed crowds,” added the spokeswoman for the eatery, which has nevertheless vowed to comply with the new law.

From Monday anyone found selling or making foie gras in California will face a US$1,000 fine, under a law passed in 2004 but which gave the state's only foie gras producer seven and a half years to comply.

In the run-up to the July 1 ban, some of the Golden State's top chefs including Thomas Keller, the only U.S. chef with two three Michelin-starred restaurants, redoubled efforts to persuade lawmakers to overturn the ban.

Calling themselves the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS), they have staged a series of foie gras-rich evenings to raise money for the cause.

But John Burton, the former California legislator who drafted the law, dismissed their calls, likening the tradition of foie gras to waterboarding and female genital mutilation.

“I'd like to sit all 100 of them down and have duck and goose fat — better yet, dry oatmeal — shoved down their throats over and over and over again,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle in April.

Paul Shapiro, vice president, Farm Animal Protection of the Humane Society of the United States, told AFP Saturday that the law's entry into force was long overdue.

“Seven and half years is a long time to allow a search for alternatives to the abusive force-feeding ducks for foie gras. It's about time this basic anti-cruelty law take effect,” he said.

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This May 14 file photo shows an order of “Artisan Foie Gras and Liberty Farms Duck” by Mark Dommen of “One Market” in San Francisco before being served at the “Melisse” eatery in Santa Monica, California. Californian foie gras fans stuffed themselves at gastronomic last suppers this weekend, hours before a ban on the delicacy finally comes into force after years of wrangling.

(AFP)

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