A group of close to two dozen animal rights activists stormed into a Toronto steakhouse last week, demanding to know if dog meat was on the menu while shouting at diners about animal cruelty.
As seen in a YouTube video, protesters from the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere stormed the Keg Mansion in order to get the attention of diners and employees at the restaurant.
"I don't see any dog meat here," a protester says to a hostess in the video. "That's the latest thing. I thought this was a meat restaurant, yet I don't see any dog meat here."
The protesters then entered the dining area to shout about animal cruelty and raise signs with the message "It's not food. It's violence" written on them.
Police are seen arriving to the scene several minutes later, just after the protesters were told to leave the restaurant.
One of the organizers of the event, Jenny McQueen, spoke to VICE over the phone yesterday.
VICE: Tell me a little about why the protest happened and what motivated your group to do it.
Jenny McQueen: We're trying to cause a little disruption in society. Society normalizes violence against animals, unknowingly a lot of the time. People eat meat, buy meat from the supermarket. They don't realize what they're eating or what they're buying was a thinking and feeling animal. You know, pigs feel pain just like cats and dogs.
How long had your group been planning this for? Was it a public event or did you keep it hush-hush?
No, we do have a public Facebook page for Direct Action Everywhere Toronto but what we tend to do is agree amongst ourselves where the next location will be and we don't actually publicize that on the public page. This one had a posting about it made.
We've been doing this for a while now and we do events all around the city. There was one at Loblaws recently, another at the Eaton Center, but were very glad this one is getting noticed.
How did you guys come to choose the steakhouse, that particular one at least?
Well, that's a good location. It's popular, it's busy, it's ideal, y'know? People are chowing down on animal—a lot of them. It's just a perfect place to disrupt.
So when you guys came in and started making noise, what was the reaction of the restaurant staff to the protest?
Asking if they serve dog meat is not something most people typically expect, so yes, they were taken aback. Also, when they realize it wasn't just one lady—it was a group of us—they wanted us to get out of there as quickly as possible. We basically always want to finish our message to the patrons, so we went inside and we continued our adage. We let them know exactly what they were partaking in, which is violence against animals.
You mentioned there were others with you and the video shows quite a few with signs. How many were there with you?
It was a good turnout, about 25 to 30 of us I'd say.
Were the customers on your side or the restaurant's?
There was a vegan lady eating inside at the time of our action—she ran out and thanked us for coming inside, and hugged our folks. This was a beautiful example of one of the main purposes of our actions, empowering vegans and would-be activists, as well as disrupting the societal norms of animal abuse, to start a wider social conversation.
The police showed up at the end. Do you guys typically have trouble with law enforcement?
The police are usually called but we don't have any trouble with the police whatsoever. We're a nonviolent group and what we're doing is basically civil disobedience and if they ask us to leave, we'll leave.
In terms of activism you've participated in before, what would you say is the craziest protest you've been a part of?
Well, I think the most crazy thing is looking at the cognitive dissonance that meat-eaters have against what's on their plate. That's the crazy thing. You know, people will sometimes think that we're the crazy animal rights activists, but I think it's the other way around.
Perhaps I should have phrased it differently. I meant exciting or provocative.
Hm. Me personally? Just this year, I was at the Toronto Fashion Show and I went up on the stage and followed a model [with an animal rights sign] who was wearing the fur of a wild moose, and that was picked up by Huffington Post and got hundreds of thousands of views.
It seems that you guys don't have plans to slow down. What other events does the group have planned?
Yeah, we will be doing a convergence very soon, so cities all across Canada will be coming to Toronto and the Direct Action Everywhere folk will be coming here and we will be planning another disruption at that point. I also want to give a shout out to Toronto Pig Save, which is doing amazing work, and we've done a lot of protests outside slaughterhouses recently.
Actually if you want to talk about crazy action, I recently rescued a chicken from there recently.
Yeah. We asked plant manager if he could spare one life, and he brought out a chicken. That chicken is now living free at Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary.
That's something else. Was there anything more you wanted to add, any closing sentiments on your overall message?
Yes. People can do something on an individual basis, they can reduce the amount of meat they eat in their diet. If they're not willing to go vegan completely—obviously that's what we'd like—people can do it in baby steps. Cut out chicken from the diet. Chicken is the most abused animal on the planet. Go for the Meatless Monday.
So just one step at a time then?
Yeah, for those people who aren't willing to do it completely, then at least make an effort, because animal agriculture is responsible for a huge wedge of global warming. Plus, the health—the health aspect is huge as well. Who wants colon cancer just because of what you eat?
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