Animal rights activists and foodies faced off Monday night over foie gras, a controversial French delicacy that's soon to be banned in California.
At Melisse, a fine dining French restaurant in Santa Monica, chef Josiah Citrin made a simple case to TV news crews for continuing to use foie gras in his dishes: It's delicious and this is America.
"The great thing about America is that we have that freedom of choice," Citrin said to ABC 7. "I wish I could give everybody a taste of foie gras mousse. Then everybody would say, 'this is beautiful, I love it!'"
Of course, not everybody thinks foie gras is beautiful. In order to create the enlarged duck liver, animals have to be force fed multiple times a day, and the footage of farmers shoving a long metal tube down animals' throats isn't pretty.
Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles, joined a group of protesters outside the restaurant Monday to show her support for the upcoming July 1 ban on foie gras sales in California.
"People are allowed to eat food, not allowed to torture [it] first,” said Bernstein to CBS2/KCAL9.
The dinner at Melisse was just one of four foie gras-themed dinners taking place across Southern California that night. Animal, The Royce at Langham and Lemon Moon all hosted their own six-course dinners, and the proceeds for the $200-per-plate dinners went toward C.H.E.F.S., a coalition of food industry members lobbying to push the foie gras ban to a later date.
Farmers and chefs hope to create new humane conditions for foie gras production in order to stop the ban on sales -- something they've had the opportunity to do since the ban was signed into law in 2004. Now, says Bernstein, it's just too late.
"They’re asking for five years to do what they had eight years to do but didn’t do," said Bernstein to CBS2/KCAL9. "So now the law is going into effect and now they’re crying."
Foie gras production has already been banned in Israel, the U.K., Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland, notes Alisa Mullins of PETA in an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee. By 2020, production will be banned throughout the European Union.