Foie gras

Restaurant sued over alleged foie gras ban violations

La Toque says servings are spontaneous gifts
2013-03-15T17:00:00Z 2013-03-16T22:44:21Z Restaurant sued over alleged foie gras ban violationsL. PIERCE CARSON Napa Valley Register
March 15, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

The national Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed suit in Napa County Superior Court against Napa’s La Toque restaurant, claiming the upscale eatery in the Westin Verasa Hotel is violating California’s ban on selling and distributing foie gras.

According to news release issued by the organization, Animal League Defense Fund “undercover investigations reveal that despite the state ban, La Toque routinely sells foie gras products derived from force-feeding birds to enlarge the birds’ liver (‘foie gras’),” in violation of California health and safety and business and professions codes.

As outlined in the legal document, “these practices undermine the integrity of the market by allowing La Toque to attract diners with its outlawed products.”

Ken Frank, executive chef and partner in the La Toque restaurant and a vocal opponent of the ban, is also named as a defendant.

The lawsuit alleges that La Toque “aims to circumvent the law by calling its actual sales of foie gras ‘gifts.’ As a result, ALDF has been required to expend valuable resources investigating the defendant’s unlawful acts.”

Frank said Friday the lawsuit “is further harassment by the Animal Legal Defense Fund to get me to stop advocating for foie gras. The law attempts to ban the sale and production of foie gras — I do neither.”

Sued last year over the same issue, Frank said the Animal Protection Rescue League “didn’t get very far.” He noted that “activists” supporting the foie gras ban had asked the Napa Police Department to investigate Frank’s operation because he randomly gives foie gras to La Toque diners, accompanied by a glass of Sauternes, on a daily basis.

“And I don’t charge for either,” he added. “Foie gras is not on the menu ... you can’t call up and offer me a $100 bill to include foie gras with your dinner. It’s provided on a spontaneous basis.

“I serve it every day on principle because I believe the foie gras I serve comes from ducks that are treated very well.”

The duck liver Frank gives away comes from New York’s Hudson Valley Foie Gras, “a farm that has put into practice a very impressive set of animal husbandry protocols. They are an open book ... they let the press come (on site) with cameras ... they have video feeds to make sure (employees) are doing everything right. I’m proud to serve their product.”

In its suit, Animal Legal Defense Fund objects to the feeding of ducks and geese that results in a liver “forcefully enlarged up to more than eight times its normal size. It results from a handler forcing a long tube down a young bird’s throat and pumping an unnatural amount of nutritionally deficient food directly into the bird’s stomach.”

“Restaurants like La Toque, who arrogantly and knowingly violate the law, cause the suffering of hundreds of thousands of birds,” stated Stephen Wells, ALDF’s executive director. “These lawbreakers will be held accountable by the courts. Our lawsuit protects California’s interest in removing a cruelly-produced product from the marketplace.”

California’s ban on the production and sale of foie gras was enacted in 2004 and went into effect on July 1, 2012. “The industry was given more than seven years to create a product not produced by force-feeding but failed to do so,” a news release from ALDF maintains.

Frank pointed out he is a member of CHEFS, the Coalition for Humane Ethical Farming Standards, a large group of well-known chefs who’d like to “see California overturn the ban and set standards making it possible to produce foie gras (in California) with a high level of animal husbandry practices.”

“Chefs have consistently encouraged better practices — when I started in this business there was no such thing as free range, let alone organic standards. Chefs have been leaders in doing things better.

“There are a lot of chickens in Arkansas who’d liked to be treated as well as the ducks at Hudson Valley.”

A nonprofit organization, Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 with the mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.

Copyright 2016 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(18) Comments

  1. kevin
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    kevin - March 15, 2013 5:18 pm
    Great job Ken!

    I will have to make an effort to eat at La Torque to show support of his efforts to illustrate the absurdity of this government intrusion...
  2. scooterams
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    scooterams - March 15, 2013 6:24 pm
    I just want to go on record as another citizen AGAINST the ban on foie gras. The so-called animal rights activists are so vocal that, often, the pubic thinks they are the majority voice. As a Napa resident, I'm proud of Chef Ken Frank and his efforts to fight this ban. Hopefully, with the right support, California will soon be able to overturn this ridiculous law as they did in Chicago.
  3. Wineandfood
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    Wineandfood - March 15, 2013 6:37 pm
    go Chef Ken! And to the bullies who call themselves the Animal League Defense Fund, thanks for giving me yet another reason to support Ken Frank and La Toque!
  4. funnyme
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    funnyme - March 15, 2013 7:15 pm
    Thank you again Ken :)

  5. odiedog52
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    odiedog52 - March 16, 2013 9:32 am
    Great job Chef Ken. Will try and make it in soon! Thanks for giving them the great publicity, ALDF!
  6. Oh hello
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    Oh hello - March 16, 2013 10:17 am
    Not only is Chef Frank a master of French cuisine, he is also a great person and community leader. He consistently donates to charities, and he is a successful restauranteur. I had the pleasure of working at La Toque and cannot think higher of him.

    I am thoroughly against the ban, and I support any chef who fights for this delicacy. I miss my Tuesday foie gras topped duck burgers at Bank in the Westin!

    These birds are bred and raised to be consumed, and not household pets. Hopefully this will have the same outcome as the soda ban in New York, and the nanny government steps back.
  7. Jeff Beck
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    Jeff Beck - March 17, 2013 5:06 pm
    So if Chef Ken isn't charging for the foie gras and therefore isn't in violation of the state ban with regard to SALES and distribution, I fail to see the issue here. Listen, personally I find it objectional that someone would even WANT to eat foie gras, but I choose to speak with my checkbook and have never purchased the product. Surely the Animal Legal Defense Fund has better things to do than harass someone like Chef Ken.

    I admit what his is doing is definitely skirting the law, but perhaps the Animal Legal Defense Fund should look to close the legal loophole Ken (and I am sure many restaurants) are utilizing. Until that time, BACK OFF and let the man run his business.
  8. Oldtimenapan
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    Oldtimenapan - March 17, 2013 11:24 pm
    Really?? You all think it's that important to torture animals for your pleasures. That is just a sad commentary about our society, stick hoses down their throats and bloat them out for your pleasures that don't have any feelings for the suffering of any living creature. I hope they shut him down for violating the law and trying to skirt around it. Go to New York.
  9. cfskinner Staff
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    cfskinner - March 18, 2013 12:27 pm
    Old Time Napan is just that...old time! As the article points out, chickens in Arkansas have a much WORSE life than the ducks at Hudson Valley. Agree with articulation of others regarding Chef Ken being top chef, as well as community leader; also the absurdity of both the gov't and Animal League Defense Fund. The loud minority! Thanks to the Register for reminding us to support both Bank and La Toque.
    Gourmet Girl
  10. Chaplin Robert
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    Chaplin Robert - March 18, 2013 5:43 pm
    Go Chef Ken. Foie Gras is one of life's great experiences. My wife, a chef, also was sceptical about foie gras - until she went to a farm in France, where she observed that the geese were treated very well and humanely. Absolutely no problem. She was converted. So Go Ken.
  11. duckfatlover
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    duckfatlover - March 18, 2013 10:50 pm
    Bravo, Chef Ken! Personally I find it objectional (sic) that someone would even WANT to eat frozen meals, convenience foods, fast foods, soda pop, and uni sushi. But I won't get in their way if they want to poison themselves or eat foods that disgust me.
    The ban is ridiculous, and attacks foie gras production while ignoring other more heinous meat production practices. PETA chose foie gras as a target because they perceive it as a luxury item consumed by the wealthy and the elite; they don't go after battery chicken farmers and stockyards because they don't want to go after supermarket meat and chicken, and egg farms.
    I have personally visited foie gras farms in France at least a dozen times, watched the gavage over and over again, and don't see it as inhumane. If you're vegetarian, don't eat meat. If you're an omnivore, and care about animal cruelty, look at eliminating eggs, stockyard meat and battery chicken from your diet before attacking foie gras.
  12. Rustydog
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    Rustydog - March 19, 2013 10:56 am
    To each their own. I won't be eating there.
    Since when do people get to pick and choose which laws they will obey?
  13. Oldtimenapan
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    Oldtimenapan - March 19, 2013 10:27 pm
    Amen to that. Will never step foot in the place.
  14. tax_advisor
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    tax_advisor - March 20, 2013 1:36 am
    Even good people can be on the wrong side of an issue...

    It's great to finally see an important subject foodies can really rally behind. This guy is the Rosa Parks for people who are hungry... hungry for a completely unnecessary taste delicacy that depends on the torturing animals.

    Also, he's quoted as saying Hudson Valley Foie Gras has a video feed. I seriously doubt that and could not find it online. Sounds like he's eagerly being force fed some PR.
  15. chefken
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    chefken - March 20, 2013 9:53 am
    Mr Advisor would be well advised to check out this link to a very objective account of a visit to Hudson Valley Foie Gras. I don't put much stock in dated You Tube propaganda.
  16. napa-transit
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    napa-transit - March 25, 2013 10:47 am
    This is the dumbest ban in California, and a demonstration of PETA's misguided efforts.
  17. Michaelsmom
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    Michaelsmom - March 25, 2013 6:45 pm
    Not one of us know FOR SURE how those ducks are fed unless we've been to the farm and witnessed a feeding ourselves. If they are in fact force fed, then it's my opinion it's animal cruelty. Any restaurant that serves foie gras and/or veal I personally avoid. Even animals raised for food shouldn't be abused during their short lives. The negative energy that comes with abuse ends up in the food, then us, one way or another!
  18. Maurs
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    Maurs - June 28, 2014 3:08 pm
    Why are you taking down all comments that are against this disgusting food that causes unspeakable suffering of geese? Eating these rotting livers is unhealthy at the very least.
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