The vegans are at it again. Blog TO reports that a group of vegan protestors were recently caught on tape in a stand off with a chef, and everyone on the Internet has an opinion about it.
A Toronto restaurant called Antler is known for serving local meats, like bison, boar, rabbit, duck, and deer. These are all animals that people everywhere do eat, but perhaps it feels more immediate and cruel than a common steamed chicken breast. They also serve foie gras, which is produced pretty horrendously—sorry, meat lovers, I'm with the vegans on this one!
On Friday, the local vegan group had their fourth protest in front of the restaurant, and it was a doozy:
They might have expected some success, because the restaurant did seem to respond to early protests by offering a vegan option on their menu board (though some say they have always had vegan options):
But things didn't go as planned.
After about an hour, Antler's co-owner and chef, Michael Hunter, set up a deer leg on a table by the window, one that is normally reserved for diners. He then began carving it, to the horror of the people outside:
❗️Antler RESTAURANT OWNER TAUNTS US by DISMEMBERING a DEER’S LEG in VIEW of OUR PROTEST; COPS INTERVENE For licensing of this video, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.Posted by Len Goldberg on Friday, March 23, 2018
The vegans did not disperse, but stood there grimly holding their murder sign, making it into something of a performance art piece.
The police eventually showed up, and Hunter packed up his display, but they were supposedly smiling as they left.
One customer who was there the night of the protest took questions from the curious Internet. From his perspective, the restaurant is pretty normal, the chef may have gone too far, but the protestors mostly seemed concerned about the deer, which is a bit absurd if you consider what people have been hunting forever.
The only thing I can think of is whether butchering in that space followed proper food safety rules, though that doesn't really seem like their department. But I don't know. They didn't seem terribly concerned.— Adam Radwanski (@aradwanski) March 27, 2018
We kind of just commiserated with our server, who seemed a little weary of the whole spectacle, but was doing her best to tune it out and give us a nice night out.— Adam Radwanski (@aradwanski) March 27, 2018
Yes, and honestly not as gimmicky as you might think from write-ups of the place.— Adam Radwanski (@aradwanski) March 27, 2018
It was, and without speaking for anyone else it didn't give me much pause. Our neighbourhood butcher sometimes butchers in the window, as a way of drawing customers in rather than being confrontational, so it didn't seem that unusual to me.— Adam Radwanski (@aradwanski) March 28, 2018
It was good. I didn't order anything that exotic but the duck I had was excellent. As was, I suppose more controversially to some, the venison tartare that my friend had as a starter.— Adam Radwanski (@aradwanski) March 27, 2018
When I was on my way in, the protesters didn't actually say anything to me about foie gras (which I might have had some sympathy for them on). They just pleaded with me not to go in because of what he was doing to the poor deer.— Adam Radwanski (@aradwanski) March 27, 2018
There were people who sympathized with the protestors point of view, but most seem to understand the chef's frustration:
I understand peaceful protesting but you’re clearly disrupting business making people feel judged unwelcomed to eat “right outside” of owners establishment.. wouldn’t this be classified as disrupting the peace ? Why target a small business and not monopoly food chain— Gordito Ślim (@zeke_KL) March 27, 2018
Antler is one of my fave restaurants. Vegans are free to protest peacefully outside. But Chef Hunter (yes that’s his name) also has the right to carve a deer windowside in his own restaurant.— bruschetta dortmund (@meridiansour) March 26, 2018
Antler is actually a socially conscious restaurant. The protesters didn't even read the menu - there are lots of vegan options and Chef Michael Hunter regularly forages for fresh wild edibles to serve there that many of the protesters probably haven't tried. What a shame.— Condo Chris Borkowski (@CondoChris) March 27, 2018
Even other vegans seem frustrated by the situation:
It's unfortunate that they weren't out there encouraging people to order the vegan options rather than condemning people. People aren't likely to listen when they feel they're being judged.— Philosophical Vegan (@PhiloVegan) March 27, 2018
It's also unfortunate that the chef sank to that level... what about rational discussion?
Even if they're not exactly stanning for the chef:
Provoking people isn't heroic, he just sank to their level (I don't agree with those activists' methods).— Philosophical Vegan (@PhiloVegan) March 27, 2018
Reasoned discussion would have been heroic.
In a statement to Blog TO, Antler responded in an email that their "identity as a restaurant is well known throughout the city as is our ethical farming and foraging initiatives."
Hunter added, "While we would much rather not be the focus of these protests, we are not at all surprised. We simply want to carry on running a restaurant and have a peaceful environment where our guests can enjoy their food."
Shutting down one small business will not do much damage to the meat industry at large, and protests like this certainly give people a very specific view of veganism. A bad one.