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Ecological News

California Geese Applaud Ruling on Foie Gras

Ecology Today - 6 min 50 sec ago

Foie Gras ducks in Normany, France. Photo via Wikipedia

Or they would if they could, because the October 14, 2014 Supreme Court ruling means that California’s ban of the sale of foie gras, a delicacy that is produced by force-feeding corn to ducks and geese so as to enlarge their livers beyond normal size, remains in place. Animal rights activists have long condemned the practice of force-feeding as being cruel and painful. In 2004 the California legislature took their point and passed a ban that went into effect in 2012.

The fight was led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and the law was authored and shepherded by former California state legislator John Burton, who described the drive as a “long, hard fight.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision means that the people of California have the right to prohibit the sale of certain food items, solely because they are the product of animal cruelty,” Jonathan Lovvorn, chief counsel for the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

Food Fight

Opposition to the ban from foie gras  (which means fatty liver in Frenchproducers and restaurateurs was fast and furious. A challenge (Association des Eleveur v. Harris, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-1313) was formally mounted in the United States District Court of Central California by the Canadian foie gras producers, Association Des Eleveurs de Canards et D’Oies Du Quebec, New York-based Hudson Valley Foie Gras, and California-based HOT’S Restaurant Group. Thirteen meat and poultry producing states weighed in with a supporting brief in favor of overturning the foie gras ban. The appeal was also supported by almost 100 star chefs.

Informally, the plaintiffs argued that the law did not take into account new, more humane methods of foie gras production. But their primary claim rested on the concept that the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from interfering with interstate commerce.

In a brief defending the law, California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued that the state did not exceed its jurisdiction in implementing the ban. “State laws prohibiting the sale of products based on concerns about animal welfare, or simply on a social consensus concerning what is appropriate, are not unusual,” she wrote, citing various states’ laws prohibiting the sale of horse meat.

Ultimately, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the producers’ line of reasoning. Relatively confident that the conservative high court would be open to the argument that the ban violated interstate commerce rules and curtailed free trade, the foie gras contingent took their case to the highest court in the land. However, on October 14th, the high court declined to hear the appeal thus leaving intact an August 2013 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the law.

No Foie Gras For You

Foie gras is no longer available in California. Photo via Wikipedia

The reaction of the food community to the ruling has been every bit as emotional as that of animal rights activists. The ban, they say, will crush culinary creativity by discouraging chefs from taking risks. It is yet another instance of political correctness and odious government overreach. One chef even alleged that the ban was a violation of free speech. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain called foie gras “one of the most delicious things on earth and one of the ten most important flavors in gastronomy,” urging one and all to lavish their dinner guests with a “delicious, unctuous terrine of foie gras.” Those who object to it solely based on the nature of its production are quite simply “twisted souls.”

Rumors circulated throughout the foodie community that there would soon be specially trained patrols roaming the state to find and prosecute foie gras scofflaws. In response, some partisans vowed, there would be an underground movement to open foie gras speakeasies and renegade pop-up restaurants where the contraband could be served.

So why all the frenzied reaction to the loss of something that – really – is a very small part of the foodie food-chain?

There’s a lot more at stake in the war over foie gras than its particular culinary virtuosity.
California’s law is seen by the country’s giant food producers – the so-called factory farms – as an ominous portent of animal welfare regulation to come.

The state has already passed a law requiring larger cages for egg-laying hens in 2010. That law was appealed by six states who argued that California should not be allowed to have standards different from those of other states. They further alleged that the infrastructure changes required to meet those standards would cost out-of-state farmers hundreds of millions of dollars effectively limiting if not preventing outright their ability to sell their products.

The egg-producers weren’t alone in voicing their alarm. Dom Nikoim with the Missouri Pork Association claims that the law is “a clear violation of the U.S. Commerce Clause,” and warns that it likely won’t stop with eggs.“Logically, the next step is, we should extend our authority on how you produce pork to other states, as well. Then is it dairy, is it beef, is it corn? Go down the list.”

For now, geese, ducks and egg-laying hens have won the day, but the anti-animal welfare regulation lobby is large and powerful. And you can be sure that they – and their representatives in Congress – have only just begun to fight.

Categories: Ecological News

Study finds mother’s exposure to pollution during pregnancy can affect baby.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
Women exposed to high levels of traffic pollution during the second trimester of pregnancy are at higher risk of giving birth to a child with weak lungs, researchers said yesterday.
Categories: Ecological News

UN experts: Detroit should restore water to poor.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
United Nations human rights experts described Detroit's mass water shut-offs as "a man-made perfect storm" Monday and called on city officials to restore water to those unable to pay, including those with disabilities or chronic illnesses.
Categories: Ecological News

Staff crunch, poor upkeep hit Bhopal gas tragedy research institute.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
A national level research institute meant to study the impact of Bhopal gas tragedy on health of the survivors and environment around the abandoned Union Carbide factory is limping with staff crunch, poor facilities and little progress on research front.
Categories: Ecological News

World's scientists call on Stephen Harper to restore science funding, freedom.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
Hundreds of scientists around the world are asking Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end "burdensome restrictions on scientific communication and collaboration faced by Canadian government scientists."
Categories: Ecological News

Texas on lonely side of battle over ozone pollution.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
At the state agency responsible for protecting Texans from pollution, a cadre of scientists is now marshaling its arguments to fight tougher federal standards on ozone levels — even as the overwhelming majority of the scientific community heads in the other direction.
Categories: Ecological News

Algal blooms in Lake Erie demand more resources from state and feds.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
To its credit — as the Ohio legislature dithers on the toxic algal blooms that left half a million residents without safe drinking water for three days — the Kasich administration has crafted a coordinated, if limited, plan to focus resources on a few key initiatives.
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Ebola fear shows science denial spreads quickly.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
Whether it involves Ebola, climate change or childhood vaccines, opinions have somehow become counterbalancing facts to scientific conclusions, giving the perception that the mutterings of the uninformed are worth hearing. They are, in most cases, not.
Categories: Ecological News

Limiting global warming to 2°C: the philosophy and the science.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
Industrial civilization must become technologically, economically, politically, and morally sustainable to hold the earth’s temperature below 2°C (3.6°F) higher than its preindustrial average. The problem is not insurmountable.
Categories: Ecological News

Coal seam gas, or clean drinking water. It can’t be both.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
There are few things more fundamental to our health and wellbeing than access to clean air and water. Australia is lucky enough to have some of the highest quality drinking water in the world, due in no small part to the protection of our drinking water catchments.
Categories: Ecological News

Loaded with lead: How gun ranges poison workers and shooters.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
The youngsters knew their sport could be dangerous, even deadly. But for the junior team at the Vancouver, Washington, Rifle and Pistol Club, the peril that emerged from their sport didn’t come from a stray bullet. It came from lead (Part 3 of 3).
Categories: Ecological News

Chemicals in plastic 'are making women less interested in sex.'

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
Chemicals found in PVC flooring, plastic shower curtains, processed food and other trappings of modern life may be sapping women’s interest in sex.
Categories: Ecological News

The drilling industry's explosion problem.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
The oil and gas industry has more deaths from fires and explosions than any other private industry, according to an EnergyWire review of federal labor statistics. It employs less than 1 percent of the U.S. workforce, but in the past five years it has had more than 10 percent of all workplace fatalities from fires and explosions.
Categories: Ecological News

New report: USDA must act to drive down dangerously high poultry pathogen rates.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
The U.S. Department of Agriculture must set strict pathogen limits for poultry products with the highest contamination rates and find ways to measure a poultry plant's success with these new standards, according to a government report.
Categories: Ecological News

Drive to mine the deep sea raises concerns over impacts.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
Armed with new high-tech equipment, mining companies are targeting vast areas of the deep ocean for mineral extraction. But with few regulations in place, critics fear such development could threaten seabed ecosystems that scientists say are only now being fully understood.
Categories: Ecological News

Warming Earth heading for hottest year on record.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
Earth is on pace to tie or even break the mark for the hottest year on record, federal meteorologists say. That's because global heat records have kept falling in 2014, with September the latest example.
Categories: Ecological News

US takes the helm of council assigned to deal with fast-changing Arctic.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
The Obama administration is pushing to make climate change a focal point as the United States becomes the new leader of the international Arctic Council, a move that is winning praise from environmentalists, even though it's unclear how it may translate into action.
Categories: Ecological News

Population growth far outpaces food supply in conflict-ravaged Sahel.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
The Sahel region's ability to produce food is not keeping pace with its growing population, and global warming will only exacerbate the imbalance, according to a new study.
Categories: Ecological News

Researchers cast doubt on China's goals to cut air pollution.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
In September of 2013, the Chinese State Council declared an ambitious war against the country's worsening air quality. However, recent research says that China is likely to fail to meet most of its targets by 2017.
Categories: Ecological News

A year after North Dakota oil spill, cleanup goes on.

Environmental Health News - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 19:30
One year after a pipeline rupture flooded a wheat field in northwestern North Dakota with more than 20,000 barrels of crude, Tesoro Corp. is still working around the clock cleaning up the oil spill -- one of the largest to happen onshore in U.S. history.
Categories: Ecological News
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