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Foie Gras Producer Heads to Court for the First Time in France

Producer Ernest Soulard faces charges of animal cruelty.

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Foie is under fire again, this time in France. According to the Guardian, foie gras producer Ernest Soulard — who supplies the fatty liver to chefs like Alain Ducasse — is on trial for committing acts of "serious animal cruelty." The company is accused of keeping their ducks and geese in inhumane conditions. The Telegraph writes that animal rights activists hope this will be a landmark case. Many have issues with foie gras due to the way it is produced: Birds are commonly force-fed so that their livers become engorged. In France, Ernest Soulard is the first producer of the delicacy to be taken to court and a "guilty verdict is likely to open the way for further prosecutions."

In 2013, a French animal rights group published a video which showed geese being force-fed. The shocking video also depicts ducks covered in filth, some with open wounds, others with abscesses, as well as dead ducks lying along the production line. This report influenced chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Joël Robuchon who announced they would stop using Ernest Foulard's foie gras. If found guilty, the company faces a maximum fine of €30,000 ($34,121 USD), and its managers could be jailed for two years "if they are found to be personally responsible for unlawful practices."

While this is the first time foie has been tried in French courts, it's an all too familiar defendant in the American judicial system. Since 2003, people have turned to litigation to either ban or protect their rights to use or raise foie gras. In 2012, California implemented a measure that banned foie gras in the state. In a win for foie fans, the U.S. District Court for California's Central District overturned that ban earlier this month.

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