By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter
(CNN) — The Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a challenge brought by Canadian duck and goose farmers who sought to challenge California’s ban on foie gras and argued that the controversial delicacy is the most “maligned and misunderstood food in the world.”
The court did not explain its thinking, but it comes after the justices upheld a California law that bars the sale of pork produced in other states unless the sow was housed in conditions that allowed her to move freely.
In the foie gras case – brought by the farmers as well as a New York producer of the product and a chef who wishes to sell it in California – the petitioners argued that the animals are raised to produce the fatty liver known as foie gras and that the producers are “law-abiding citizens who fully comply with their jurisdictions’ strict laws” to ensure the protection of animals.
In court papers, they said that they “care about their animals just as much as any California politician or animal-rights activist,” not the least because their livelihoods depend upon it.
They note that they passed federal inspection for the “sale in commerce” of the product.
Lawyers for California defended the law, saying it was necessary to combat how the product is produced. They say the law prohibits force-feeding a bird within the state “for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver” and that the process includes forcing the bird “to consume more food than a typical bird of the same species would consume voluntarily,” including by using of a feeding tube that is inserted in the bird’s esophagus.
They noted the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act establishes a national inspection scheme for poultry slaughtering and processing but that it does not address “animal husbandry.”
“In adopting these provisions,” California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta argued, the California legislature “considered evidence that the process of force-feeding ducks and geese causes extreme suffering.”
California won in the lower courts.
The case attracted a handful of “friend of the court” briefs, including one from France supporting the farmers and urging the court to reverse the lower court ruling that it said, “undermines the nationally uniform US Department of Agriculture standards governing the ingredients of poultry products.”
A lawyer for France, meanwhile, noted that foie gras “represents an enduring part of France’s heritage and culture that the federal government has worked with France to protect.”
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