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California will become the first American state to ban foie gras.

Consumers of the controversial delicacy are embroiled in one last rush to snap up every last remnant before it is wiped off shelves from July 1.

As the deadline nears, prices have skyrocketed for the food stuff, made from the liver of a specially fattened duck or goose. Restaurant menus teem with every version of the dish and foie gras lovers are engaging in a final binge.

Foie gras is made in France by a controversial method known as ‘gavage’, where ducks are force fed by having a pipe placed down their throats several times a day for three weeks, so their livers can expand to ten times its usual size.

California, whose then governor was Arnold Schwarzenegger, moved to ban the delicacy in 2004, but an eight-year period of grace was allowed. The current frenzy has been dubbed ‘foie-mageddon’.

Chefs and gourmands, and animal welfare activists, have gone head to head over the ban. The decision has kickstarted protests, warnings of a foie gras black market and even death threats against resistant chefs, who argue birds do not have a gag reflex and are used to gorging on fish.

But the Animal Protection and Rescue League, says  "after weeks of enduring this force feeding torture many ducks have difficulty standing, walking and breathing."

Santa Monica restaurant Melisse, which has two Michelin stars, is offering a $185 (£120) ‘Foie for All’ five-course tasting menu.

 "It is definitely one of the most popular things we serve here," says chef Josiah Citrin. "The great thing about America is we have freedom of choice. I'm personally sad because foie gras is a foundation of haute gastronomy."

Foie gras enthusiasts have been indulging in an underground manner, such as through Dining website Dishcrawl, which organised a series of sold out events at secret locations.

Spokesperson Tracy Lee said: "I believe in the freedom to eat what you like and it's been nice for people to enjoy it without protesters. A lot of people coming to these events have been buying loads and freezing it. They're stocking up. The price has gone up, it's practically doubled."

Around a dozen countries, including Britain have banned gavage, though foie gras made elsewhere, such as France, can be imported into the UK.

Chefs face a $1000 fine if they violate the ban.

Currently more than 100 chefs have formed the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards (CHEFS) in an attempt to repeal the ban, on conditions of using cage-free birds, gentler hand feeding and animal welfare inspections. 


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California enacts statewide foie gras ban
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