A Toronto chef, frustrated by an animal rights group protesting outside his restaurant, carried a leg of raw venison to the front window of his establishment, in plain view of the protesters crowding the sidewalk. As the protesters watched in horror, he took out a knife and began flaying the meat from the bone with all the precision of a neurosurgeon.
As his steady hands effortlessly guided the blade through the meat, one of the protesters captured the scene with his phone, along with a frantic, stuttering commentary: “To…taunt the activists,” said the man behind the camera in a video posted online, “he has brought the leg of a recently murdered deer to this dining area.”
Michael Hunter, the chef and owner of Antler Kitchen and Bar, never lifted his gaze from his work to look at the screaming protesters, and he didn’t say a word. Toronto police providing security for the protest immediately entered the restaurant to speak with him – though Toronto police claim they never asked him to stop what he was doing. “It’s his restaurant, he can do what he wants, really,” Sgt. Philip Townley said.
Hunter finished his task, put the meat in a pan and headed back to the kitchen. In half an hour, he returned with a steak, masterfully seared to perfection, of the same venison he had just butchered, on a white plate, unaccompanied and unsullied by the presence of garnish. It was the middle of Friday night dinner service, just after 8 p.m., and here was the chef and owner, at the front of the restaurant, sitting alone and savoring the meat he had just labored over.
“It shocked me,” said protest organizer Marni Ugar. “It made me feel really sad.”
This was the fifth time the protesters had gathered outside Antler on Dundas Street West, chanting such creative slogans as “Antler has blood on their hands” and holding signs that say “Murder” in hastily-prepared pink construction paper. The original plan was to stage weekly protests beginning in December, after a board outside Antler reading “Venison is the New Kale” drew the ire of activists suffering from Seasonal Asshole Disorder. But, alas, the daunting Canadian winter dashed those plans after shivering activists decided they could wait until spring to save Bambi.
Interestingly enough, the fact that Antler is a small establishment that prides itself in only serving “ethical meat” is exactly why Ugar and her fellow protesters selected it as their primary target. Apparently, the bigger chains like McDonald’s “don’t listen.” It’s almost as if they don’t get taken seriously. Shocking. “I won’t get through to them,” Ugar said. Ironically, Ugar and her goons don’t believe in the concept of humane meat, and see Antler as an opportunity to debunk it, while garnering some much undeserved publicity. They’re particularly perturbed about Antler’s use of foie gras, the production of which can involve force-feeding geese.
Hunter’s peace offering of adding vegan dishes to his menu has done nothing to assuage the activists’ rage. Another protest is scheduled for Saturday. They want Hunter to join them at a candlelight vigil at a slaughterhouse, held for the animals on their way inside. And, ultimately, they want the restaurant, all restaurants, to go totally vegan. They’ve literally handed down an ultimatum that involves a funeral for food.
One activist’s argument was the deer didn’t ask to be killed. I’m pretty sure any cow, pig, chicken, or fish you find in the local grocery store didn’t either. I’m also quite sure that animals whose skins have been used for clothing didn’t willingly sacrifice their exteriors for that purpose. According to such logic, all animals that are carnivores are “morally wrong” for killing and eating their prey.
Hunter sent his audience an emailed invitation after the venison dinner display, suggesting they go foraging with him. Ugar said it’s an offer she won’t accept. However, she admitted the first step to ending the protest is to open up dialogue with Hunter. A step she has yet to take.
“We were obviously getting to him,” Ugar said, “because we’re impacting his business by standing on the sidewalk. I assume — I actually can’t know — this was his way of getting revenge on us.”
For his part, Hunter is staying remarkably quiet and calm over the situation. He politely declined requests for an interview, but gave an emailed statement saying the protests were a regular occurrence in his industry, and didn’t surprise him. “We are operating business as usual,” he said. “Our identity as a restaurant is well-known throughout the city as is our ethical farming and foraging initiatives.”
Stories such as this are entertaining, but the sad fact remains that an entrepreneur’s small business is being targeted by bullies because he won’t submit to their will. Sure, it’s fun to mock these idiots, and it definitely brings news outlets like ours ad revenue. But, the focus shouldn’t be on the entertainment value or the clicks, and most certainly not on the childish protestors who are already receiving more attention than they deserve. So, to end this story, we’ve included something worth giving our attention to, a few mouthwatering dishes from Antler’s menu.