A jagged, bloody line in the foodscape's sands has officially been drawn. Are you vegan or are you a carnist? It's a question increasingly being asked by observant eaters, but could this great divide actually change the way restaurants serve and welcome diners?
One Irish restaurateur certainly seems to think so. And the ensuing fallout is leaving eaters to pick sides.
It all began when Paul Stenson, the owner of The White Moose Café in Dublin posted the following message on the restaurant's Facebook page: "Attention vegans. Please do not waltz into our café with no advance notice and look at us as if we have ten heads when you realize that there aren't 50,000 items on our menu that suit your idiosyncratic dietary requirements."
Ok, a little testy… wouldn't you agree? What with the waltzing, the ten heads, and the accusations of entitlement, the post was clearly meant to express Mr. Stenson's ire.
Stenson tried—perhaps—to couch his rant by promising a bit of conciliation: "Our chef will be more than happy to prepare a number of dishes for you, but a little heads up in advance of your visit would be appreciated. Fair is fair like."
Here's when things went a little crazy. Stenson's post was quickly shared to various vegan pages by one Tee Jay, a Facebook user who was not pleased.
Tee Jay added this commentary: "Absolutely disgusting manners and behaviour. Wonder why I am judging before I've even eaten here? Because according to The White Moose Café it is okay to judge people without knowing them. It's okay to call their beliefs idiotic and belittle them online. You are disgusting, disrespectful and ignorant. Get a life and a job because you wont be in this one much longer talking to customers like that! Totally unprofessional, you have no idea what you've started here."
Them's fighting words. Do you see how "idiosyncratic" became "idiotic"? But this is just the beginning.
The vegan faction took up arms. The cafe's Facebook page then became the site of many, many negative posts.
By last week, Stenson had had it. He posted the following: "Given the torrent of abuse and unjustified negative reviews we have been receiving from the vegan population over the past 24 hours, all vegans are now barred from our cafe. Any vegans attempting to enter the café will be shot dead at point blank range."
That's right. He went there. He barred all vegans—and threatened their lives!
"While we wouldn't usually kill any of our customers"—good to hear, Mr. Stenson, "as you say yourselves 'meat is murder', so it's only fair game if we murder humans as well as animals. There is clearly no difference."
Stenson was willing to put his money where his mouth was: "We look forward to never welcoming you vegans to our café ever again."
The masses of minions then eagerly took sides.
Kate Hill, evidently of the vegan persuasion, wrote: "I'm hoping this is a joke. U [sic] cannot ban anyone from your place and anyway us vegans dont want to come anywhere near a bigoted that attacks ppl [sic]. Oh btw this is breaking the law it's called discrimination. The face u [sic] find it funny to laugh at people who have the right to eat what they want is beyond belief."
Some carnivores gave the café five-star reviews.
A vegan protest IRL—actually outside the restaurant and not online!—ensued.
Many nasty posts followed by vegans, non-vegans, carnivores and Mr. Stenson. Four-letter words were exchanged. Accusations were flung. Things went from nasty to worse.
Early this week, Stenson posted: "I would like to thank the hundreds and thousands of vegans across the world for all the hard work they have been doing to promote our café over the past couple of days. Thanks to you guys, our café has gone viral in countries as far as New Zealand, Australia, America and Germany (to name but a few) . . . . I feel truly grateful. We owe you big time. P.S. You're still barred."
A new group on Facebook, People Against The White Moose Café, has formed.
Which side will you join? Talk about the Hunger Games! They have begun for real.