‘Meat is all the rage right now, and that’s got some people broiling,’ a local newspaper reported. By embracing butchering as theater, however, millennials are giving activists a serving of their own tactics.
Here’s a satisfying, even uplifting (if somewhat bizarre) story about a role reversal: Meat lovers dishing it out to animal activists for a change.
It’s a pleasant turn of events to be savored along with the “pork-centric places” and proliferations of “game, organ and exotic meats [that] has sprung up all over the county,” according to a recent article titled, “Meat Trend Has Some Seeing Red,” it the San Diego Union-Tribune.
And talk about provocative. “Hungry for a meatier experience?” the story asked. “How about a pre-dinner demonstration on how to butcher a whole animal or even the opportunity to slaughter your entrée yourself?”
The article went on to note that the “carnivore craze is sating foodies and hipsters,” but “it’s got some people squealing about animal cruelty.”
In fact, a recent DIY butchery event in the San Diego called “Death For Food” was canceled after being targeted by an online campaign launched by Bryan Pease, a local lawyer-activist known for his involvement with marine mammal litigation. His campaign attracted some 2,500 protesters, according to the newspaper, and here’s the intriguing part: The anti-butchery campaign generated threats of a boycott against Suzie’s Farm.
Suzie’s Farm happens to be a certified organic farm and food marketing operation about 13 miles south of San Diego, where the husband-and-wife owners — actual family farmers — cultivate more than 100 varieties of seasonal vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits. The farm would seem to be the perfect model for activists who hate so-called “industrial agriculture.”
Ah, but Suzie’s Farm also raises chickens and sells eggs and, of course, was planning to host an event (aimed at making money to sustain the business, it should be noted) that with tongue firmly in cheek was promoted as a “‘farm-to-guillotine-to-table” dinner, the article stated.
That characterization was intended to be funny, but no one ever accused animal-rights activists of having a sense of humor. Ask anyone involved in that movement, and their answer is the always the same: “There’s nothing funny about the [torture/abuse/exploitation/slaughter] of innocent animals.”
Right back at ya, picketers
San Diego area activists are also busy picketing a company called S&M Sausage & Meat, according to news reports, marching around with PETA’s “Meat is Murder” signs ever since the restaurant/deli store opened last month.
You gotta love this place. Its logo shows a hog on its back with its feet in the air and apple in its mouth and the owners style their business as a destination for “adventurous meat eaters,” offering “exotic sausages, a variety of house-made bacon and unexpected game meats will inspire a sense of adventure and push you to the edge of your comfort zone.” S&M sells everything from kangaroo hotlinks to alligator-antelope andouille to fried pig ears.
With that kind of positioning and marketing mix, it’s no surprise that the clientele attracted to S&M is willing to dish out an in-your-face response to the PETA picketers. Here’s a sampling:
“I ordered double sausage out of spite,” one diner posted on Facebook, along with a photo of people eating at the sidewalk tables right next to the picketers.
“For every animal you don’t eat, I’m going to eat three,” another diner posted.
As the newspaper story noted, however, there’s a larger point to be made here, beyond cheering the meat eaters in an us-against-them food fight between veggies and carnivores. Events such as “Death For Food” or “farm-to-guillotine-to-table” dinners, although deliberately edgy, recognize that respect for where food comes from requires acknowledging the death of food animals as the essential act that provides us with sustenance.
That recognition was an intrinsic part of Native American culture — still is — because they were seamlessly connected with Nature. No matter where you look in the animal kingdom, every creature is either predator or prey. That was understood because it’s obvious when people’s lifestyles aren’t wrapped in the protective cocoon of modern, consumer-friendly urban lifestyles.
As a restaurant consultant quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune article noted, the millennial generation is seeking that kind of connection with the food supply.
“That audience is quite frankly demanding and wants to be part of the experience,” Andrew Freeman, a San Francisco-based hospitality consultant, told the newspaper. “They want the thrill and adventure of dining they get with whole-animal (butchery).”
Nothing wrong with that, but here’s hoping that watching somebody butcher a pig provides something more substantive than adventurous dining.
That’s a start, but it can’t be the end point of the experience.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.