Two San Diego Restaurants Sued For Allegedly Selling "Banned" Foie Gras

February 22, 2022

California non-profit Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL) has filed a lawsuit against two San Diego restaurants for allegedly selling foie gras, which is the enlarged liver from force-fed ducks and is illegal in California under a law APRL helped pass.

The lawsuit - which was filed on February 18, 2022, by the Animal Protection and Rescue League Inc. against parent companies for Mister A's in Bankers Hill and Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe, as well as both restaurants' owner Bertrand Hug - cites California Health & Safety Code section 25982 that prohibits sale of products from a duck that has been force-fed for purposes of enlarging the liver. It also references a 2008 resolution passed by the San Diego City Council praising APRL's efforts to expose the cruelty of foie gras and encouraging restaurants to remove this item without waiting for the state law to take effect, which happened in 2012. The lawsuit alleges that both restaurants temporarily removed foie gras from their menus following the ban, only to "quietly re- add it back to the menu later when they thought no one was looking."

APRL is seeking an injunction to comply with California Health & Safety Code section 25982 against Mille Fleurs and Mister A's and is represented by attorney Bryan Pease, a nationally recognized civil rights, environmental and animal protection attorney based in San Diego and licensed in California and New York. Pease has filed similar lawsuits in the past, most notably against Born & Raised restaurant in San Diego's Little Italy. A lifelong vegan, Pease received his bachelor's degree in human development from Cornell University and law degree from State University of New York at Buffalo. He is a longtime animal rights activist who led the court battle to keep the colony of seals protected at the Children's Pool beach in La Jolla. He also spearheaded California's foie gras ban and unsuccessfully ran for election to the San Diego City Council to represent District 2 in 2018.

The California foie gras law is Senate Bill 1520, which was at the request of a coalition of animal protection organizations includinng APRL. The law prohibits the "force feeding of a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird's liver beyond normal size" as well as the sale of any products that are a result of this illegal process. This law ultimately outlawed the traditional method of producing foie gras in California. It was enacted in 2004 and went into effect on July 1, 2012. On January 7, 2015, a U.S. District Court held that the portion of California's law banning the sale of foie gras within the state was preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act, which stopped the California Attorney General from enforcing the ban for a period of time. That decision was overturned on appeal on September 15, 2017, but the decision was stayed in December 2017 to permit the plaintiffs to petition the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied in January 2019, resulting in the ban on foie gras going back into effect statewide.

For more information, read the full complaint below.