California Foie Gras Restaurant Targeted by Extremists Closes

Sonoma Saveurs, the foie gras store and restaurant owned by the partners behind Sonoma Foie Gras, recently closed after failing to generate enough business to stay open.

The restaurant was severely vandalized in 2003, but ultimately closed because of a simple lack of patronage.

Junny and Guilermo Gonzalez, who were partners in the restaurant and also own Sonoma Foie Gras, said they would turn their focus to their foie gras farm.


Sonoma Saveurs foie gras shop closes. GraceAnn Walden, San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 2005.

More on Activist's Debate Over California Foie Gras Ban

As this site noted earlier this week, there’s an ongoing conflict between animal rights groups over whether or not they should support California’s proposed ban on force feeding of ducks and geese. One one side is Friends of Animals which is opposing the bill because it doesn’t go far enough, and on the other side are United Poultry Concerns and a number of other groups who argue that activists should take what they can get.

Farmed Animal Watch’s Mary Finelli recently posted e-mail correspondence between herself and Friends of Animals’ Daniel Hammer in which Finelli asked how opposing the bill could help ducks and geese. Here’s the response she got,

>From: "Daniel Hammer" <[email protected]>
>To: "Mary Finelli" <[email protected]>
>CC: "Priscilla Feral" <[email protected]>
>Subject: Re: FoA on SB 1520
>Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 16:05:30 -0400

>Dear Mary,

>Friends of Animals proposes that people work for the rights of animals and >promote a vegan lifestyle.

>Friends of Animals is making this happen by fighting the amended version of >SB 1520. The only thing SB 1520 does is protect the "right" of Sonoma Foie >Gras to forcefully fed ducks for the next eight years. "These animals," >those currently at Sonoma Foie Gras, will have been slaughtered when SB >1520 >takes effect--along with an additional 440,000 more. SB 1520 does nothing >for these animals--each one an individual whose rights are just as >important >as those birds eight years from now.

>Friends of Animals is also making this happen by encourage people to adopt >a >vegan lifestyle. There are a number of ways we are doing this, including >our >Vegan Starter and Restaurant Guides. Obviously, if people go vegan it will >help these animals, and many, many, more.

>Thank you for taking an interest in the work of FoA. More information on >what FoA is doing can be found at:

>Cheers, >Daniel Hammer

To which Finelli responded on AR-News,

Apparently FoA thinks there is more hope for these
birds that everyone will go vegan by 2012. Any sane person knows how utterly
improbable that is. Furthermore, supporting SB 1520 and promoting veganism
are not mutually exclusive. Most if not all of the many groups who are
supporting the bill are in fact doing both. FoA is pushing its philosophical
position to a berserk extent, one that is immensely detrimental to these
many birds as well as to the animal protection community. If in 8 years
ducks are still being brutally tortured for foie gras production in
California, FoA and the Humane Farming Association, which is also opposing
the bill, will be among those to blame. It’s inexcusable and infuriating. We
have met the enemy and it is these “Friends.” I urge all reasonable people
to do what they can to support this bill.

An animal rights group and its leader insane? Say it isn’t so.


Controversy over the California foie gras bill. Mary Finelli, E-mail Correspondence, September 1, 2004.

Friends of Animals Urges California Governor to Veto Foie Gras Bill

A bill that would eventually ban the production of foie gras in California recently cleared both houses of the California legislature, but one of its supporters — Friends of Animals — is urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto the bill.

Animal rights activists originally pushed for the bill, but it was amended by the legislature in ways that did not make them happy.

First, the ban on force feeding of birds in California wouldn’t go into effect until July 1, 2012 at the earliest. Ostensibly this is to give foie gras producers times to change their business practices, but this is also a nice way to simply punt the issue to a future legislature which could simply void the current bill.

Second, in the mean time the bill provides protections to foie gras producers from civil or criminal action. The bill provides that,

No civil or criminal cause of action shall arise on or after January 1, 2005, nor shall a pending action commenced prior to January 1, 2005, be pursued under any provision of law against a person or entity for engaging, prior to July 1, 2012, in any act prohibited by this chapter.

So instead of an immediate ban on foie gras, what the activists got for their trouble was a ban almost 8 years in the future with explicit criminal and civil immunity for foie gras producers in the meantime.

In a letter urging animal rights activists to call Gov. Schwarzenegger’s office and urge him to veto the bill, Friends of Animals Daniel Hammer wrote,

In his testimony on SB 1520, Assemblyperson Joe Nation stated: “I want to emphasize this. Sonoma Foie Gras, the only producer of foie gras in California, supports SB 1520.”

Sonoma Foie Gras retained a lobbyist to work on getting SB 1520 passed. In his testimony, Sonoma Foie Gras owner Guillermo Gonzalez stated: “I want to express my appreciation for allowing us to continue in operation! We are very appreciative.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s office needs to hear from you. Tell him SB 1520 only benefits the state’s foie gras producer, while ensuring the continued torture of at least 440,000 ducks. Please press Gov. Schwarzenegger to veto SB 1520, “the foie gras bill.”

The full text of the amended bill can be read here.


Update on SB 1520: Urgent Action Alert. Press Release, Friends of Animals, August 31, 2004.

Ban on Foie Gras Passes California Senate

A bill that would ban the force feeding of ducks and geese to make foie-gras passed the California state Senate this week by a vote of 21-14. The bill now goes on to the state Assembly.

Currently there is only one firm, Sonoma Foie Gras, in California that produces foie gras.


Ban on force-fed foie gras nears. Reuters, May 19, 2004.

Bill to Ban Foie Gras Approved by California Senate Panel

The California Senate’s Business and Professions Committee panel this week narrowly approved a bill that would ban the production and sale of foie gras in that state.

By a 4-3 vote*, the committee voted to move the bill to the Senate floor for consideration. Since the bill’s sponsor, John Burton (D-San Francisco), is widely viewed as one of the more powerful members of the California Senate, the fact that he could barely squeeze the bill through his own committee suggests that the bill’s chances before the full Senate are not good (much less making it through the House and obtaining Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature).

The bill as passed by the committee was amended to delay the proposed phase out of foie gras — the proposed ban would not go into effect until 2012.

Burton told the Associated Press that he didn’t believe that introducing the ban was not “in any way . . . validating or acquiescing to this illegal activity” by animal rights extremists who have engaged in acts of violence against Sonoma Foie Gras, California’s sole producer of foie gras.

The owners of Sonoma Foie Gras beg to differ, and on their web site accuse Burton of setting a dangerous precedent that has the effect of,

  • legitimizing the violence, terror, and negative propaganda campaign carried out by animal rights extremists
  • providing a viable entry-point to any minority wishing to impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

The full text of the proposed ban on foie gras can be read here.

* As an example of how poorly they frequently do their jobs, the Associated Press reported that the committee passed the bill by a vote of 4-1, while Reuters reported that the bill passed by a vote of 4-2. The California Senate web site’s roll call for the vote, however, confirms that the bill barely squeaked through on a 4-3 vote.


Lawmakers OK ban on force-feeding birds to make foie gras. Jennifer Coleman, Associated Press, April 26, 2004.

California moves to ban foie gras. Reuters, April 27, 2004.

Activists Take Journalist Along on Duck-Stealing Mission

Four animal rights activists with a group calling itself the Animal Protection and Rescue League took along a reporter for the Los Angeles Times during a September raid in which the activists stole four ducks from a duck shed owned by Sonoma Foie Gras.

Activists Bryan Pease, Kath Rodgers, Carla Brauer and a fourth individual who asked the LA Times reporter not to identify him, broke into the shed and took four Peking-Muscovy ducks. The activists told LA Times reporter Marcelo Rodriguez that they had carried out similar operations in the past as part of what they called “the underground railroad for ducks.”

The group apparently decided to ask a reporter to tag along after the media had largely ignored a video of the sheds the group had produced earlier in the year that was then released to the media by a group called Gourmet Cruelty (it did not help that local authorities concluded that animals in the sheds were being properly cared for).

Sonoma Foie Gras owner Guillermo Gonzalez, who has been the subject of relentless harassment by animal rights activists, aid that he would pursue legal action against the activists if they did, in fact, steal animals from his property. Gonzalez told the Times,

Unfortunately, some activists hold animals in higher esteem than they do humans. Our animals are treated humanely, and anybody who enters our farm can see that.


Activists Take Ducks From Foie Gras Shed. Marcelo Rodriguez, The Los Angeles Times, September 18, 2003.