WASHINGTON — California's ban on force-feeding ducks and geese to produce foie gras is on the U.S. Supreme Court's summer menu.
It might be more than a mere delicacy. Thirteen states — including South Carolina, Missouri, Kansas and Georgia — are urging the court to review California's prohibition. Serious constitutional principles are on the line, they and other critics of the law say.
"The Supreme Court should take the case because it raises an issue of extraordinary national importance in terms of whether one state, like California, can dictate the farming methods to be used by farmers in other states," attorney Michael Tenenbaum said in an email interview Monday.
The issue, attorneys for the 13 states agreed in a supporting legal brief, "is of exceptional importance to the preservation of state sovereignty."
Based in Santa Monica, Tenenbaum is representing opponents of the state's law. These include a California restaurant company, a New York state foie gras producer and a Canadian organization of duck and goose farmers. The 13 states filed a separate brief making similar arguments.
"While some in the California Legislature may think that they have the power to tell farmers in other states what to do, at least 13 other states recognize that this unconstitutionally interferes with interstate commerce," Tenenbaum said.
"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," California's brief says, noting that "several states prohibit the sale of horse meat for human consumption."
The California Legislature adopted the foie gras ban in 2004, though it didn't take effect until 2012. The provision says "a product may not be sold in California if it is the result of force-feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird's liver beyond normal size," which is typically how foie gras is produced.