When it comes to the subject of veganism, people can't seem to help but get riled up, especially when they're having a debate on the internet. It seems like it's impossible for people to have a discussion about avoiding meat without it devolving into a mud-slinging contest. Moderate opinions and reasoned arguments are quickly drowned out by those who are capable of shouting the loudest.
Those on both sides of the argument feel they are promoting a worthy cause. However, this self-righteousness often means that they are driven to extremes to raise awareness or get their message across - leading to embarrassment and outrage in equal measure. If you want an example then look no further than this controversial incident.
A recent picket at a Toronto restaurant got completely out of hand when a chef took a stand. Outside Antler Kitchen and Bar, a restaurant that serves exotic game meat such as wild deer, boar and bison, protestors were bearing signs which featured slogans such as "murder" and "animals are not ours to use".
Irritated that the protestors seemed to be driving away customers, Chef Michael Hunter (yes that is his real name) decided to stage a little protest of his own. Hunter took a leg of venison to one of the high top tables that faced the street and then, in full view of the disgusted protestors, placed it on the cutting board and began carving it up. His gesture incensed those outside, who accused Hunter of taunting them with the “leg of a recently murdered deer”.
To add salt to the wound (or maybe the dish) Hunter came back not half an hour later to chow down on a piece of seared venison steak in front of the astonished vegans. The incident was recorded by onlookers, who uploaded it to social media. Soon, Twitter was inundated with comments about the footage. Who was in the right, people asked themselves? The activists had every right to protest on the street, but on the other hand, Hunter should be allowed to cut up meat in his own restaurant.
Mairi Ugar, who led the protests, stated: "This story has since become about the deer carving but I still want to have dialogue, This protest is about speciesism. A pig is killed and slaughtered to be eaten but no one says anything. If the restaurant were killing dogs, people would be angered. On dogs we put booties and a jacket and cuddle with it ...People are asking me ‘Why not McDonald’s?’ My answer is ‘Who will I sit down with there?’ I am a grass-roots organiser so my activism focuses on local businesses. No one from McDonald’s is going to meet me."
She added: "We've been getting a lot of support, but also anger from a lot of people all over the world. The owner of the restaurant is a hunter, so we certainly have the pro-gun Americans really angry at us, and anger because people get defensive if they think they are being attacked about eating animals ... Animals don't care that they are being served in a small restaurant. That's their life, not ours to take."
Fellow activist Len Goldberg told CBC Toronto that: "There's a mix of emotions when you see the leg of an innocent being being carved up in front of you to taunt you. There's a lot of sorrow when you see that because we know that leg belonged to a being. We're there with positive messaging. Get animals off the menu and get health ... onto the menu."
Some of the people who viewed the footage online expressed concern that carving the meat outside of the kitchen, Hunter was risking a potential health code violation. As a result of this, Toronto's public health agency received several complaints about the establishment and promptly investigated, advising the owners "to handle the food properly, refrain from processing food outside of the kitchen and the need to use a hand sink." Antler passed the health inspection that was conducted on site.
Commenting on the health agency's conclusions, the restaurant released a statement via their PR agency which said: "We are not surprised by the green pass issued, as we have always been in excellent standing with TPH since the day we opened in 2015. Proper food handling and safety has always been a priority for us as it should be for every restaurant in our city. We thank them for coming by and welcome TPH and any of its inspectors into our establishment anytime."
This incident shows that there's always more than one side to an ethical quandary, especially when it comes to the issue of animal rights and welfare. If you want an example of a similar incident, then look no further than social media star Chrissy Teigen's response to vegans who shamed her for her meat eating.