Americans love food. Now more than ever, it’s a refuge from the world’s intractable difficulties — and a rich, tactile alternative to the arm’s-length enjoyments of the Internet. And with money the key to satisfying desires online and off, the sky’s the limit when it comes to luxury food. That’s why it’s no surprise that Californians still crave foie gras — despite the statewide ban that took effect two years ago.
And that’s why it’s important that a federal judge kicked off the new year by blocking the enforcement of that ban. Holding that federal poultry law pre-empts the Golden State’s foie gras prohibition, Judge Stephen V. Wilson drew cheers from chefs up and down the coast — yes, even in activist redoubts like San Francisco.
Perhaps cleverly, Judge Wilson effectively sidestepped the broader constitutional issues. But that left open a window of opportunity for groups like the Humane Society, which insist that foie gras is a simple animal-cruelty issue. Their plan is to convince the (notoriously activist) Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that its permissive interpretation of the interstate commerce clause should extend to protect the ban. Previously, the court had ruled that California could prohibit foie gras without running afoul of constitutional legal precedent, which has long enforced the free flow of products across state borders.
If the Ninth Circuit agrees, it’s likely that the foie gras case will make its way up the judicial food chain — possibly to the Supreme Court. Either way, the controversy will feed the flames of the culture war, which now extends in more ways than one to what and how we eat.
For evidence, simply recall the way that Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha sauce became a political football, or the unending arguments over efforts to force kids to eat government-approved healthy meals.
The more that food becomes a public health issue, an animal rights issue, or any one of our many bones of national contention, the more we’ll feel like there isn’t anyplace we can go to enjoy ourselves, relax or celebrate. Whatever the legal and ethical intricacies, that’s going to worsen America’s besieged, put-upon mentality — a painful loss not just for fun, but for freedom.
— Orange County Register, Santa Ana, California,