Here’s a story you don’t see very day: A chef taking on vegan protestors — and winning.
Before exploring the backstory of this controversy, it’s instructive to review how different media outlets reported on the event.
Here’s how Newsweek portrayed it: “Canadian Chef Butchers and Eats Deer Leg in Front of Animal Rights Activists.”
Here’s how Fox News positioned the story: “Toronto chef angers animal rights protestors by butchering meat in restaurant’s window.”
And here’s how Newshub.com headlined the story: “Meat restaurant owner’s brutal retaliation to vegan protestors.”
These news sources got most of the details rights, but one can see how they slanted the story.
The Toronto restaurant that sparked this incident is called The Antler Kitchen and Bar. Its menu features “native meat,” as chef and co-owner Michael Hunter labels his entrées, which include bison, boar, rabbit, duck and deer.
For a reason to be noted in a moment, the restaurant was repeatedly targeted by animal activists, who took to holding signs and chanting outside Antler’s front windows for weeks on end.
Eventually, Hunter told the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail that after three months of repeated demonstrations outside his restaurant, with activists calling him a “murderer” and chanting, “You've got blood on your hands,” he decided to “have his own protest.”
No Gray Area for Veggies
It should be noted that this aptly named chef is himself a hunter and forager who feeds his own family meat that is almost entirely caught in the wild. While regulations in the province of Ontario forbid restaurateurs from serving wild game, Antler’s menu is dedicated to “nose-to-tail eating,” using all parts of an animal in preparation and cooking.
You’d think that a focus on utilizing the entire animal, a practice for which the original inhabitants of Ontario were well-known, would be considered a positive thing, even by veggies. But of course, vegetarian activists are absolutists, who brook no nuance in their insistence that all meat is bad, as are all people who dare to consume it.
Back to the deer leg incident.
According to The Globe and Mail, it appears that the restaurant first showed up on the local activists’ radar after an Antler employee wrote the following message on a promotional chalkboard outside on the sidewalk: “Venison is the new kale.”
I’m sure that employee was merely trying to be clever and hopefully attract attention (and bring in business) to the establishment.
But let’s be honest: writing such a statement for veggies to confront is like waving a flaming red flag in front of an angry bull, while someone else jabs him in the rear with an electric cattle prod.
For diehard veggies, bashing kale is fightin’ words!
Hence, the demonstrations in front of The Antler, with sign-carrying and shouting, which resulted in the aforementioned incident.
“[Hunter] just started carving [a deer leg] in front of us, and then he walked away,” activist Marni Ugar told Newsweek. She said that half an hour later, Hunter “came back with a cooked piece of meat, [and] sat there and ate it in front of us.”
Ugar claimed she organized the protests to highlight her belief that consuming animals raised in pastures without the use of hormones and antibiotics is still unethical, even as an alternative to factory farming.
Did I mention that veggies are absolutists?
Hunter, meanwhile, tried to downplay his little stunt.
“There was no offense meant,” he told The Globe and Mail. “I’m not trying to promote a meat diet. I have a lot of respect for the vegan diet, because I know how hard it is.”
Really? Dude, just take credit for a well-conceived tactic that accomplished exactly what you hoped it would: It gave the protestors a serious dose of angst as payback for the frustration you no doubt experienced in having to deal with people shouting that you’re a murderer.
As a final coda to this story, here’s the ultimate proof that there’s no compromising with dedicated vegetarians.
Ugar told Newsweek that she reached out to Hunter via email and offered “to limit the number of protests” outside his restaurant if he agreed to put a sign in his window reading, “Attention, animals’ lives are their right. Killing them is violent and unjust, no matter how it's done.’ ”
Perhaps the activists would agree to a footnote: “The message above was brought to you by a group of sick, deluded fools who understand nothing about Nature or nutrition.”
That seems like a fair compromise to me.
Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.