foie gras suit

Judge rejects request to dismiss foie gras lawsuit

2013-07-10T10:57:00Z 2013-07-12T10:50:50Z Judge rejects request to dismiss foie gras lawsuitKERANA TODOROV Napa Valley Register
July 10, 2013 10:57 am  • 

A Napa County Superior judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit against a celebrated Napa chef who has continued to serve foie gras to protest the state ban on the distribution and sale of the controversial delicacy.

In March, the Cotati-based Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against Napa’s La Toque restaurant and Ken Frank, executive chef and partner. The complaint alleged the business’ ownership, LT Napa Partners LLC, and Frank were circumventing the 2012 law and selling foie gras in spite of the new rule.

Animal activists have claimed for years that force-fed foie gras amounts to animal cruelty, an assertion Frank strongly disagrees with, saying there are humane ways to produce foie gras.

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Frank’s lawyers denied the allegations and tried to have the complaint dismissed, arguing that his client was giving free foie gras to customers under his constitutional right of petition and free speech. The customers receive foie gras along with a card protesting the new law, according to court briefings.  

On July 1, Napa County Superior Court Judge Diane Price denied the motion, ruling the defendants are selling foie gras. “Plaintiff has shown future harm and continuing violations by defendants,” she wrote.

“Plaintiff contends that foie gras sales at La Toque are ongoing and that plaintiff will continue to divert resources until the sales end. Even if the court were to consider defendants’ new evidence that La Toque has started providing protest cards to customers getting foie gras, the new evidence does not change the nature of those transactions — they are sales.”

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The Animal Legal Defense Fund praised Price’s decision. “Today’s decision shows that La Toque’s violation of health and consumer protection laws, and their attempt to block investigations of their own illegal activities by couching their enormous profits as free speech, is ridiculous and without legal merit,” said Stephen Wells, ALDF’s executive director.

“Such arrogance directly causes the suffering of hundreds of thousands of birds and unfairly contorts California’s marketplace with illegal and cruel products.”

Manuel Klausner, an attorney for Frank and LT Napa Partners LLC based in Los Angeles, on Tuesday said his clients may file a notice of appeal with the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. “I’m disappointed,” he said of Price’s ruling.

On Tuesday, Frank said he’s not selling foie gras to his customers. “I’m being targeted because of my longtime vocal opposition to this law,” said Frank, who now obtains foie gras from New York’s Hudson Valley Foie Gras shipped via FedEx.

He gives foie gras to very few people, he said. “However, what I do give away to customers is my way of dumping tea in the harbor, so to speak” he said in a court filing.

“Restaurants give away stuff all the time. No one is going to argue that free ice cream on one’s birthday is not really free.”

He would not say how much he’s spent so far. “Giving away foie gras is not giving away a cookie,” he said.

He’s not giving up the fight. He now plans to offer free classes in his kitchen on how to prepare foie gras, he said. “I’m far from beaten,” he said.

No trial date has been set.

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(35) Comments

  1. Enjoy the Journey
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    Enjoy the Journey - July 10, 2013 12:01 pm
    Go Ken!
  2. ta2cook
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    ta2cook - July 10, 2013 12:39 pm
    im with Chef Ken...keep up the protest!! whats next they are going to somehow claim that all meat is raised in humaine and then we will have nothing. if you dont want to eat foie gras then dont!! but dont ruin it for everyone else!!!
    Keep up the fight chef!!
  3. ta2cook
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    ta2cook - July 10, 2013 12:41 pm
    keep up the fight Chef!!
  4. NapaMama11
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    NapaMama11 - July 10, 2013 12:47 pm
    The title of this article is gross.....
  5. Adamzenwine
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    Adamzenwine - July 10, 2013 12:50 pm
    Wooo! I love foie gras so much and didnt know it was illegal here, having just moved here from NY. Bring on the free classes and lets help Ken free the world of this silly ban.
  6. Vixen
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    Vixen - July 10, 2013 2:01 pm
    Hard to believe Frank continues to adhere to his foie -is -humane stance; such arrogance and shameless disregard for animals, human intelligence, and the US Constitution. Glad the court rejected this nonsense.
  7. shantz
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    shantz - July 10, 2013 2:29 pm
    This is great news!

    Non-human animals are sentient beings just like us. They are not commodities that can be exploited for our own pleasure.

    The fact that more people are becoming conscious of animals rights and that some laws are on the books to protect animals demonstrates that we are slowly becoming a truly humane and just soecity. Eventually, the struggle for animal rights will be the dominant civil rights issue in our Nation and globe.
  8. Gordon Huether
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    Gordon Huether - July 10, 2013 3:33 pm
    Go Ken Go !

  9. Rustydog
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    Rustydog - July 10, 2013 6:17 pm
    Laws aren't something you just pick and choose which ones you want to obey.
    If you think a law is unjust fight to have it changed.
    Boycott La Toque.
    Ken can teach the prisoners how to cook.
  10. Michael Butler
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    Michael Butler - July 10, 2013 11:01 pm
    Lets roast a few of those ducks over the fire pits by the pool! Instead of Peking duck, we could call it Westin duck!

  11. ta2cook
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    ta2cook - July 11, 2013 7:02 am
  12. ta2cook
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    ta2cook - July 11, 2013 7:03 am
    Agreed! Support Chef Ken!!
  13. Wineandfood
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    Wineandfood - July 11, 2013 8:31 am
    He's following the law - he is not selling foie gras he is giving it away.
  14. Wineandfood
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    Wineandfood - July 11, 2013 8:32 am
    Have you visited a foie gras farm? Specifically the family run one that was shut down in California? If your answer is no, you know not of what you speak.
  15. ta2cook
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    ta2cook - July 11, 2013 12:10 pm
  16. ta2cook
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    ta2cook - July 11, 2013 12:12 pm
    go ahead and botcott the resturant...there are pleanty of other patrons like us that will go to Chef's resturant....your bussiness is not needed. and i agree with Wineandfood..he is not breaking the law!
  17. ta2cook
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    ta2cook - July 11, 2013 12:16 pm
    you can ignore all the facts and just think that it is cruel but if you have not seen a farm that produces foie gras than i dont know how you can say that he is arrogant and shameless when it come to animals......since when is feeding animals become cruel......not feeding them is cruel aswell so you cant take both stances......
  18. kgirl64
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    kgirl64 - July 11, 2013 1:38 pm
    This whole story makes me sick ! I'm for the animals... better yet let's force feed the people who like foie gras and see how they feel afterwards. And if this can be done a more humane way let's see some articles on that. Thanks Superior Court Judge Diane Price I'm for boycotting La Toque !
  19. Mustangs4Us
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    Mustangs4Us - July 11, 2013 2:38 pm
    (A) There may be many laws one might not personally agree with. But it's the law.
    (B) Big Civil Liberties issue: The Freedom to Devour exotic delicacies. Only in the Napa Valley.
  20. JustAnotherManicMonday
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    JustAnotherManicMonday - July 11, 2013 2:39 pm
    Not a fan of foie gras. And yes the court should go through.he shouldn't be serving it.
  21. Ron Bolander
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    Ron Bolander - July 11, 2013 4:46 pm
    He's giving it away, so he's not breaking the law. If you don't want to eat it then don't. These geese are raised with this in mind, same as cows for their meat. They get plenty of food their whole life!
  22. rothwell
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    rothwell - July 11, 2013 8:41 pm
    make a law that punishes people who harm animals in the production of Foie Gras not eliminate it from a food source. Banning good food is not a smart thing to do. What next? Turkeys? Then pigs? We meat eaters are a cruel and hungry bunch.
  23. knowyourfacts
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    knowyourfacts - July 11, 2013 10:07 pm
    Go Chef Ken, you are standing up for all of us. I have been to two farms that produce foie gras humanely and I did not see any distressed ducks. Instead of banning something that some people don't like, why doesn't California lead the way with standards for humane production of foie gras so that the rest of the world can learn to do it better.

    No minority should be allowed to impose their moral beliefs on the majority, no matter how loud they are.
  24. Bystander 1
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    Bystander 1 - July 12, 2013 7:45 am
    I agree with the keep it Ken routine. Keep it all the way to jail or at a minimum permanently out of a kitchen of any sort. Or alternately some reciprocal stuffing. As for the majority thing is that supposed to be backed up by the poll here? Also one might ask whether this majoritarian thing is a consistent principle or one you only apply when you think you have one or your side I mean Starbucks would not be here if we went by the majority of a register poll. A majority if one exists must go through the process of creating law. Right now it is a question law not a majority. I mean you do not believe in mob rule by bloodthirsty liver slurpers do you?
  25. Harry Balzonya
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    Harry Balzonya - July 12, 2013 8:03 am
    Watch this to understand the reality of Foie Gras production.


    These ducks are cared for have better conditions than most commercially produced hogs. I wonder how many of the people on here that object to Foie Gras go and consume commercially raised meat without a second thought.

    I personally don't see much of a difference between this and placing cattle on feed lots to eat a non natural food (corn) to fatten them up for slaughter.

    I agree that setting minimum standards for the humane treatment of animals is needed but banning a product outright regardless of how it was raised does not make sense.

  26. UpValleyKB
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    UpValleyKB - July 12, 2013 3:49 pm
    Bravo Ken! This law is fundamentally wrong: legislating what one can - or cannot - eat is Nanny-state Overkill.
    And has this judge never heard of standing? What possible standing does some vegan extremist have to assert 'animal rights' claims? When an injured animal shows up in court, then maybe the judge should listen ... otherwise throw this out!
  27. UpValleyKB
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    UpValleyKB - July 12, 2013 3:50 pm
  28. Bystander 1
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    Bystander 1 - July 12, 2013 6:45 pm
    There needs to be a line. I would suggest that line is animals need not suffer significantly when it is simply not necessary. Perhaps we could consider the motto of "do no harm" during the course of their lives, after all that's what we grant ourselves. Cant really see a Disney movie where we go to another planet and the lead species is slightly modifying the internal organs of the lower animals for their own epicurean delights and then having good warm Disney-like feelings about them. So yes by all means wave your libertarian flags for whatever fetish you please just keep it away from the kids who tend to grow up loving animals
  29. Flaneur
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    Flaneur - July 13, 2013 12:54 am
    Knowyourfacts, do those farms producing foie gras humanely use force feeding?
  30. Flaneur
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    Flaneur - July 13, 2013 1:20 am
    Upvalleykb, if as you wrote "....legislating what one can - or cannot - eat is Nanny-state Overkill," is the same true for what drugs one can or cannot use?" And your argument that no human should have standing in court to protect animals, that only if an animal shows up should the court hear a case: no one would ever be prosecuted for torturing puppies, shooting endangered birds, or starving horses to death. Is that your recommendation?
  31. Bystander 1
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    Bystander 1 - July 13, 2013 7:44 am
    make a law that punishes people who harm animals in the production of Foie Gras not eliminate it from a food source
    It seems like the implication is that the FG producers be held accountable but not the restaurants which serve it? Do we really need to argue the flawed logic in that?
  32. Bystander 1
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    Bystander 1 - July 13, 2013 8:16 am
    For context we should add the whole milk conspiracy or whatever you want to call the FDA crackdown on that, Or for that matter the FDA's claim that cherry manufacturers are categorically denied from showing legitimate science showing the health benefits of cherries because they have not gone through the process of drug licensing. that is correct cherries must first become drugs before the manufacturers can release information on their health benefits. And then we have the immunization problem. I would assume libertarians are kinda stuck on such an issue since it demonstrates so clearly the limits of their supposed foolproof ideology of individuals in vacuums. In a way there is a vacuum involved in all of this, but I wont go there So yes it is a world of conflicting interests, so quit your belly aching that you suffer from particularly mean-spirited and wide ranging form of repression. If you want justice for your cause, go fight for it
  33. eyeremembertim
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    eyeremembertim - July 13, 2013 11:53 pm
    I am a 30 year food and wine guy and most culinary professionals like me would side with Ken. He is a great guy, a kind human who as a food server I was always glad to see at my table. In an era where so much of what we we eat is mass produced in an almost factory-like setting, to single out foie gras is naive and misguided. Ducks and geese specifically engorge themselves naturally to build up caloric reserves for long migratory flights. This is is nature folks and it has been cleverly utilized by successful cultures for centuries. I personally eat very little meat and when I do I am conscious of how it was raised. If I eschew foie gras it is only because I watch my lipid profile intake. My own ethics are more often offended by the behavior of fellow humans toward one another. Bon appetit.
  34. aszmidt
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    aszmidt - July 15, 2013 3:15 pm
    Prohibitions do not work. It didn't work for booze, it isn't working for drugs and ultimately will not work for Foie Gras. Go Chef Ken!
  35. Flaneur
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    Flaneur - July 16, 2013 8:43 pm
    Aszmidt wrote: "Prohibitions do not work. It didn't work for booze, it isn't working for drugs and ultimately will not work for Foie Gras." But prohibitions reduce the consumption of banned items by not allowing legal businesses to sell them. No store today openly sells or gives away heroin or meth. You might argue that banning foie gras would not end the trade, but it would certainly reduce it. As a test of your statement, do you oppose prohibiting heroin and meth, etc., because you believe that prohibition does not work? The foie gras issue should, I think, be settled (one way or the other) on the merits or failures of the moral issue.
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