Annoyed Chef Butchers Deer Leg in Front of Vegan Protesters

Peaceful protest is sometimes the most effective way to deliver a strong message. Sometimes, though, you have to step things up a bit to really get someone's attention and compel them to act. Something like, say, butcher a freshly killed animal in front of a bunch of vegans in hopes of getting them to quit protesting outside your restaurant. That's what Toronto chef Michael Hunter recently decided to do, and lo and behold, it worked!

Murder at dinner #murdertastytastymurder

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Hunter's carcass stunt wasn't unprovoked. For weeks, vegan activists had been standing guard outside his restaurant -- Antler Kitchen & Bar -- protesting the fact that the establishment was promoting eating meat over vegetables after they put out a chalkboard sandwich board one day in late 2017 scrawled with the playful message "Venison is the new kale." One local vegan activist didn't take too kindly to the message, and organized a small protest in front of the restaurant with a few others. Since then, they've shown up periodically during dining hours, standing out front with large signs printed with messages like "Murder" and "Animals are not ours to use."

In hopes of getting them to scram, Hunter promoted some vegan menu items on the sandwich board, but that did nothing to dissuage them. 

“The goal always is for a restaurant to go fully vegan,” lead protester Marni Ugar told The Globe and Mail. “To reduce the animals they kill, for me, isn’t good enough.”

The protesters were scaring away walk-in customers, and after an unsuccessful attempt to have a dialogue with them, Hunter felt helpless and didn't know what to do. Then, last Friday, they began taunting diners by screaming "murderer" into the restaurant every time the door opened, and Hunter knew he had to step things up. So, he grabbed a large deer leg and headed out to the front of the restaurant where he began to carve it up on a counter at the window -- in full view of the activists outside.

Understandably, the move pissed off the protesters and two calls were placed to the police, who showed up to keep the peace. Hunter has since voiced regret about what he did, telling The Globe and Mail "After, I didn’t feel good about it. I felt like they got to me and I played into them.”

However, it seems to have prompted a bit of a resolution, and even helped the restaurant's business. The incident has not only garnered a lot of attention for Antler and led to a bump in reservations, but Ugar emailed Hunter agreeing to limit the protests to one per month. He responded to say that he plans to introduce a vegan tasting menu, and also invited the protesters out on a foraging trip.

h/tThe Globe and Mail, Eater

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.