TORONTO - Protesting an animal rights protest, a chef and co-owner at Antler Kitchen & Bar in Toronto began butchering a raw deer leg with a sharp knife in the restaurant's window.
It all started with a friendly chalkboard feud with another local restaurant down the street. According to The Globe and Mail, Antler used its sidewalk sign to write what it thought was a harmless food joke.
"Venison is the new kale."
“There was no offense meant,” Micahel Hunter, the deer-carving chef and co-owner of Antler Kitchen & Bar, 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.”
But, Marni Ugar, who already had experience organizing animal rights protests, took offense. She saw the sign and organized a rally, the Canadian publication wrote.
A group of animal rights activists got together several times in front of the restaurant, chanting "you're a murderer" and "you've got blood on your hands," according to The Globe and Mail.
After three months of listening to chants of murder echo through his restaurant came Hunter's breaking point - a counterprotest in full view of the animal rights activists.
"I figured I'll show them," Hunter told The Globe and Mail. "I'm going to have my own protest."
Then protesters held up signs in front of the window as he carved. One had big, pink letters - MURDER. Another said, "Animals are not ours to use."
On its website, the locavore restaurant, which prides itself on using local and regional ingredients, says its menu "is rural to its roots" and "aims to celebrate the wild culinary delights of Canada." Menu items, which the protesters clearly do not approve of, include rack of deer and a Game Burger made with wild boar, bison and deer. Even the pappardelle has braised rabbit. On occasion, the restaurant "cook[s] game meats over an open fire pit, in true rustic style."
It's clear the restaurant opposes factory farming and prides itself on using all parts of the animal.
But Ugar said an animal is an animal. On a street full of butcher shops and other restaurants serving meat, she picked Antler as her protesting focal point to debunk what she calls a myth that raising animals in pastures free from hormones and antibiotics is more ethical than factory farming, she told The Daily Globe and Mail. She said it's not ethical-free meat.
After Hunter's counterprotest, he told The Globe and Mail he didn't feel good about it.
Hunter and Ugar have begun a conversation over the issue. The Canadian publication said Ugar offered to reduce the frequency of the protests to once a month if Hunter would agree to put a sign in the window: "Attention, animals' lives are their right. Killing them is violent and unjust, no matter how it's done."
Hunter responded with plans to introduce a vegan menu, and invited Ugar's group to join him on a foraging trip, The Globe and Mail said. Ugar has not yet responded, but said she is thinking it over.
According to The Globe and Mail, the ordeal has had a direct impact on Antler - reservation requests are up.