Force of law

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 October, 2004, 12:00am

If a bill recently signed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger comes into effect, shady dealers on street corners will have yet one more illicit item to sell - foie gras.

Schwarzenegger has signed a bill making the production and sale of foie gras illegal in California, unless it can be proved the geese and ducks were raised without the force-feeding, or gavage, that enlarges their livers. The bill is scheduled to take effect in 2012. It has been supported by animal rights activists and celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Martin Sheen and Kim Basinger. At the same time, activists have been accused of targeting chefs that serve foie gras, including pouring acid on the car of one, sending another threatening videotapes and letters and pouring cement into pipes, turning on the taps and flooding his shop.

Surprisingly, the main target of the bill, Guillermo Gonzalez, owner of California's only foie gras producer, Sonoma Foie Gras, welcomes passage of the bill because it gives him enough time to demonstrate that enlarging the livers by gavage is not cruel. The practice of force-feeding dates back to ancient Europe, and came about when it was observed that wild geese and ducks gorged themselves to store fat to sustain them on their winter migration.