From Animal Legal Defense Fund
The court denied La Toque’s motion and agreed that illegally selling foie gras is not protected by the freedom of speech.
NAPA, Calif. — Today [July 3, 2013], the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) won a major battle as part of its lawsuit against Napa-based La Toque restaurant for violating the state ban on selling and distributing force-fed foie gras products. In a ruling today by the Napa County Superior Court, the Sonoma County-based ALDF successfully defeated La Toque’s anti- SLAPP (a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion which aimed to allow their continued illegal sale of force-fed foie gras products as a “protest” protected by the freedom of speech. The court denied La Toque’s motion and agreed that illegally selling foie gras is not protected by the freedom of speech.
Despite the state ban, ALDF’s undercover investigations have revealed that La Toque routinely sells foie gras, the enlarged livers of force-fed birds, in clear violation of California Health and Safety Code § 25982. The lawsuit alleges that La Toque aims to circumvent the law by calling its actual sales of foie gras “gifts.” Despite La Toque’s mincing of words, the court found that serving foie gras to paying customers is a sale under the law. The court denied La Toque’s claims and reaffirmed the merits of ALDF’s case against La Toque. In her judgment, the Honorable Diane Price wrote that these transactions “are sales,” agreed ALDF has proven La Toque’s “ongoing violations” and suffered injury by expending valuable resources to fight La Toque’s efforts to block investigations, and denied the defendants’ attorney’s fees.
“Today’s decision shows that La Toque’s violation of health and consumer protection laws, and their attempt to block investigations of their own illegal activities by couching their enormous profits as free speech, is ridiculous and without legal merit,” said Stephen Wells, ALDF’s executive director. “Such arrogance directly causes the suffering of hundreds of thousands of birds and unfairly contorts California’s marketplace with illegal and cruel products.”