A protest outside of a Toronto restaurant has been gaining increasing attention online after activists say the owner brought out an animal leg, carved it and returned later appearing to eat grilled meat.
Marni Ugar and several other activists gathered in front of Antler Kitchen and Bar in the Dufferin Street and Dundas Street West area. They could be seen in photos holding large signs such as “Murder” and “Animals are not ours to use.”
Ugar told Global News on Tuesday that one of the restaurant’s owners, who is listed on the Antler website as chef Michael Hunter, brought a large animal leg and carved it at the restaurant’s front window.
“I suppose it was his way of taunting us or getting revenge. I can (can’t) know because I haven’t had a conversation with him yet,” Ugar said, adding she understands how the protest can impact the business.
She said the man appeared at the window about 30 minutes later, eating a grilled piece of meat. Ugar said she and the activists remained outside of the business.
“It was obviously stressful for us since we’re there taking a stand for the animals — we love animals — and we’re seeing the leg of a dead animal in his window.”
The protest also triggered two calls to police, who were dispatched to the business.
Toronto police Const. Jennifer Sidhu told Global News that officers were called to attend the restaurant “to keep the peace” at around 7 p.m. and just before 8:30 p.m., which was the scheduled duration of the protest.
She said no charges were laid and no arrests occurred. Police didn’t say who specifically called officers both times.
Global News contacted Antler Kitchen and Bar to ask about Friday’s protest, but a public relations spokesperson responded late Monday and said the restaurant “can’t accommodate an interview at this time.”
“We aren’t surprised by the protest as it’s not the first we have had,” Laura Fracassi wrote.
“We will continue to stay true to our identity as a restaurant and to Chef Michael’s identity as a chef.”
A look at the dinner menu posted on the Antler Kitchen website shows multiple beef, venison, duck, boar and fish dishes. But there are also non-meat dishes such as lentil and beet salad, chestnut gnocchi and wild mushroom risotto.
Meanwhile, Ugar said she regularly holds protests at neighbourhood restaurants. She said she first noticed Antler Kitchen and Bar in the winter after seeing a small board outside of the Dundas Street West business which read, “Venison is the new kale.” Friday’s protest was the fourth one at the business.
She said she’s often asked why they don’t target larger restaurant corporations. Ugar said she does protests at those types of businesses through larger activist organizations, but that she prefers to do more grass-roots, local activism.
“Ultimately, the reason I chose Antler is because my goal is to debunk the ethical meat myth, which is what Antler is known for,” Ugar said, noting the restaurant serves foie gras, a fattened duck or goose liver, and venison.
“We’re out there to educate the public. When people walk by, we hand them literature, we have dialogue. This isn’t about attacking or targeting. It’s about educating and more than anything, taking a stand for the animals — they don’t have their own voice, that’s what we are for them.”
She said even though the restaurant serves game meats and it’s considered to be “alternative and ethical,” her protests still involve animals as a whole.
“An animal’s life is an animal’s life … if this restaurant had several vegan options but was serving humanely-raised dogs and cats, everybody would be on our side,” Ugar said.
“I don’t see the difference between a deer and a dog, a cow and a cat — I don’t understand.”
Ugar said she has received many negative comments, some of which she called “toxic.”
She said she contacted Hunter through email on Friday. She said he responded by offering to take her foraging to pick vegetables, but added she hasn’t responded to him as of Tuesday.
“I’m not sure if I want to do that. I certainly would like to sit down and talk to him,” Ugar said, noting she has spoken with at least one other restaurant owner as a part of her activism.