Customers square off against vegan activists targeting ‘speciesism’ at Toronto restaurant

Click to play video: 'Protesters square off against supporters of controversial Toronto restaurant'
Protesters square off against supporters of controversial Toronto restaurant
WATCH ABOVE: Protesters and supporters of Antler Kitchen and Bar restaurant faced each other on Thursday evening outside the controversial eatery – Apr 5, 2018

As vegan activists gathered peacefully again in front of a Toronto restaurant known for serving game meats in an effort to raise awareness about “speciesism,” some customers took issue with the protest and got in arguments with the activists.

“You’re harassing a small business. He doesn’t deserve that … go protest somewhere else, in front of the butcher shop,” Nicole Vandelden said while holding a sign that read “self-righteous pricks” with an arrow pointed at the activists.

“We’re not harassing Antler. We are trying to get everybody to understand that they say they support humane meat, and that’s not true,” one of the protesters said, who didn’t want to speak on camera.

READ MORE: Vegan activists protest at controversial Toronto restaurant

Vandelden told Global News after the interaction that she has been to Antler Kitchen and Bar several times to eat. She said she decided to come to Thursday’s protest for the first time.

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“I don’t like when other people try to shame me into not eating meat, not wearing fur, it’s my choice and it’s not their problem,” Vandelden said.

Another customer, who didn’t want to be identified, asked why the protesters were “picking” on the restaurant when there are others.

Antler Kitchen and Bar, located near Dufferin Street and Dundas Street West, gained international media attention after vegan activists said the owner, chef Michael Hunter, brought out an animal leg, carved it and returned later appearing to eat grilled meat during a protest on March 23. In photos taken by protest organizer Marni Ugar and shared with Global News, the activists could be seen outside of the business holding large signs such as “Murder” and “Animals are not ours to use.”

WATCH: Activists gather again to protest in front of controversial Toronto restaurant. Jamie Mauracher reports.

Click to play video: 'Activists gather again to protest in front of controversial Toronto restaurant'
Activists gather again to protest in front of controversial Toronto restaurant

In an interview with Global News on Saturday, Ugar said she attempted to speak with Hunter again this past week but said he didn’t respond. She previously said Hunter offered to take her foraging for materials to learn about the restaurant’s process. But Ugar said she wants to meet with Hunter to discuss making menu changes.

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Meanwhile, Ugar said Thursday’s protest was still about educating consumers. She said the activists haven’t been blocking the entrance to the restaurant and haven’t been physically stopping people from going in.

“We’re trying to tell people that it’s absolutely not ethical to eat animals,” she told Global News.

“I don’t really care what they eat, just animals don’t want to die – that’s what we’re trying to say.”

READ MORE: Toronto restaurant owner cuts animal leg at front window while vegan protest occurs outside, activists say

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.

Ugar said she and others are targeting “speciesism,” where people are “discriminating” in eating certain meats.

“We’re saying it’s OK to love the dog and cat, and do that to the cow and the pig – but it’s not,” she said.

“I’m just curious why people would think it’s terrible to kill a dog or a cat, most people think it’s terrible to kill a horse, why is it OK to kill a deer or a boar or a pig or a cow? It makes no sense.”

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WATCH: Vegan protesters gather outside controversial Toronto restaurant (March 31)

Click to play video: 'Vegan protesters gather outside controversial Toronto restaurant'
Vegan protesters gather outside controversial Toronto restaurant

As for what’s next, Ugar said she’s not sure what specific actions will be taken. On a Facebook event page for Thursday’s protest, there was discussion about marching to McDonald’s. But as of Thursday evening, it was unclear if the activists were going to do that.

Ugar previously said she’s often asked why they don’t target larger restaurant corporations. She 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 previously said, noting the restaurant serves foie gras, a fattened duck or goose liver, and venison.

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Laura Fracassi, a public relations spokesperson for the restaurant, issued a brief statement to Global News Thursday evening in response to the protest.

“We have to get back to doing what we do best — running our restaurant, servicing our guests and building our next menu,” she wrote.

— With files from Jamie Mauracher

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