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After Foie Gras Ban Lifted In California, Some Chefs Face Threats

Karlene Bley of Los Angeles spreads her torchon of foie gras onto bread during lunch at the Presidio Social Club restaurant in San Francisco. Last week, a federal judge overturned California's ban on the dish.

Last Wednesday, a federal judge overturned California's ban on the sale of foie gras, the delicacy made from the livers of fatty ducks and geese which have often been force-fed. The ban was approved by California voters in 2004, and went into effect in 2012.

Since the ban was overturned, some chefs using foie gras in their menus have been receiving threats.

Sean Chaney of Hot's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach, Calif., one of the restaurants involved in the case that overturned the ban, spoke with NPR's Arun Rath one day after the ban was lifted. He said he'd received threats. "Apparently there's some people out there, that really, they just, they'll kill me," Chaney said. "But I can't kill an animal that's raised for this?" He continued, "You know, it goes with it. I'm okay with it. I'm not really too worried about a bunch of people that sit in their dark room writing threats to me. If they want, come on down to the restaurant. They know where I'm at."

"Some of them are willing to sit quiet for a minute with a protest sign," says Chaney's attorney Michael Tenenbaum. "Other ones take to the Internet and issue death threats, as we saw today, with somebody threatening to find him, kill him, shove a tube in him. This is craziness."

Chaney and Tenenbaum say they've been in touch with the FBI and local law enforcement about the threats.

The Huffington Post is also reporting that another chef in California has been receiving threats over foie gras as well:

"There are some describing the way they're hoping I will die," Ken Frank, who owns the restaurant La Toque in Napa Valley, told The Huffington Post. "A good share of them talk about shoving a pipe up my ass or down my throat. But it's the ones who would like to see me hung by my feet and bled to death with no anesthetic — those are the most disturbing."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, have organized protests in support of a foie gras ban, and the organization sent the following statement to the Huffington Post after learning about the threats:

"PETA is skeptical of the claim that threats are being made. Anyone who's desperate enough to want to serve up the diseased, fatty livers of tortured birds is certainly not above making up a fat lie. This big macho chef needs to 'man up' and recognize that part of being a man means having a heart."

As we've previously reported, it's still illegal to produce foie gras in California, even though last week's ruling makes it legal to sell the product in the state. And even during California's statewide ban on the dish, many chefs just gave it away for free from their kitchens.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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