Looks like the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is still passionate about the foie gras ban that went into effect last summer; the organization has filed a lawsuit against La Toque restaurant in Napa, Calif., claiming that the restaurant has been selling foie gras despite the ban, under the guise of "gifts."
"Restaurants like La Toque, who arrogantly and knowingly violate the law, cause the suffering of hundreds of thousands of birds. These lawbreakers will be held accountable by the courts," Stephen Wells, ALDF's executive director, said in a statement. "Our lawsuit protects California's interest in removing a cruelly-produced product from the marketplace." Foie gras is often made by force feeding geese to enlarge their liver.
Naturally, Ken Frank, executive chef, feels La Toque will get off this time. The restaurant was sued last year over the same foie gras ban, Frank said, except by the Animal Protection Rescue League. He was investigated because he randomly serves foie gras to diners with a glass of sauternes on a daily basis. "I don’t charge for either," Frank told the Napa Valley Register. “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."
In the meantime, Frank calls the lawsuit "further harassment by the Animal League Defense Fund to get me to stop advocating for foie gras." And while the ban aims to stop the sale and production of the duck liver, Frank does neither by simply serving up foie gras at random, free of charge.
This isn't the first and only restaurant to be sued by animal activists; PETA also sued Hot's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach, Calif., for a foie gras burger (even though they changed the name and offered the foie gras for free).
Update: Ken Frank has released a statement to the press, saying, "La Toque is in full compliance with SB1520, as mandated by the California State Legislature, which is viewed by some as an attempt to ban the production and sale of foie gras. At the discretion of the chef, La Toque presents spontaneous gifts of Foie Gras to patrons we believe would enjoy the product, which we do with other dishes as well, though we do not charge for these gifts and they are not listed on our menu. La Toque purchases, as anyone can, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, from a farm in New York with excellent animal husbandry standards."
Frank goes on to note that La Toque was sued by the Animal Protection and Rescue League for the same issue last year, when the Napa Police Department found no cause for action and the court ordered the APRL to pay $12,000 of Frank's attorneys fees.
“La Toque has been, and will continue to be, a supporter of reinstating humane foie gras production to California," the statement says. "To that end, I’m a proud member of CHEFS, the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards, and look forward to letting the legal process take its course on this issue.”