A Toronto chef, apparently exasperated at an animal rights protest outside his restaurant, carried what appeared to be a leg of raw venison to the front windows facing the sidewalk. As the protesters watched, he took a knife and began separating the meat from the bone.
As he worked, one of the protesters videoed the scene and gave frantic commentary: “To taunt the activists,” said the man behind the camera in a video posted online and picked up by BlogTO, “he has brought the leg of a recently murdered deer to this dining area.” Michael Hunter, the chef and owner of Antler Kitchen and Bar, didn’t look at the protesters, didn’t say anything. Some police officers on hand for the protest entered the restaurant to speak with him – though Toronto police deny they asked him to stop what he was doing. “It’s his restaurant he can do what he wants, really,” Sgt. Philip Townley said. Chef Michael Hunter tucks into some venison in view of protesters. Marni Jill Ugar Hunter finished cutting, put the meat in a pan and headed back to the kitchen. In half an hour or so, he returned with an impressively seared steak — perhaps of the same venison he had butchered — on a white plate, unaccompanied. It was the middle of Friday night dinner service, just after 8 p.m., and here was the chef, at the front of the restaurant, sitting alone and eating. “It shocked me,” said protest organizer Marni Ugar. “It made me feel really sad.” “For me it’s just an animal and it’s an animal that didn’t want to die.” Ugar didn’t know what to make of it. She couldn’t tell whether her string of regular protests had finally taken its toll on the chef.
It was about the fifth time protesters had gathered outside Antler on Dundas Street West, chanting slogans like “Antler has blood on their hands” and holding signs that say Murder. (The initial intent was to stage weekly protests starting in December, after a sandwich board reading Venison is the New Kale drew the ire of activists, though cold weather dashed those plans.) “We were obviously getting to him,” Ugar said, “because we’re impacting his business by standing on the sidewalk. I assume — I actually can’t know — this was his way of getting revenge on us.”