At the end of August, animals rights group Direct Action Everywhere took up their cause at Eat Drink SF, a San Francisco food festival organized by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. While animal products including foie gras were being served inside the Fort Mason festival pavilion, protestors outside shouted "It’s not food, it’s violence" as one activist covered his naked body in fake blood, wrapped it in cellophane, and lay on top of a piece of styrofoam intended to resemble a meat tray (it didn't, really).
In what is starting to feel like a pattern, Direct Action Everywhere struck again on Friday night, this time at the venerable Berkeley dining institution Chez Panisse. Berkelyside reports that 10 to 15 people entered the downstairs dining room of the craftsman home on Shattuck Avenue where Alice Waters' restaurant has operated since opening in 1971.
The group arrived at around 10 p.m. and police were called around 11 p.m., Berkeleyside writes. Activists were "screaming and yelling" according to one Chez Panisse employee, and eventually police officers escorted them out. Five were detained and no arrests were made. For their part, activists claim they were “hit, shoved and shouted at” and even “assaulted” in the restaurant, as they detail in a press release.
“I come to you today with a message of compassion,” one activist reportedly announced to the dining room. “A message on behalf of the billions of animals exploited, who are tortured and killed by humans every year. We are told a lie that animals exist as commodities for human use Animals are living feeling individuals. They value their lives and their freedom the same as you and I do. They experience the same pain, the same joy, the same love of life and they have it have it ripped away from them and are brutally killed for the mere crime of being different than ourselves.”
The protest appears to be part of a concerted movement from Direct Action Everywhere called #FlowersForAnimals. As a Facebook page explains the tactic, activists are encouraged to "go into a restaurant and honor a victim by placing a flower on a patron’s plate. Speak about the violence inflicted on an individual animal in the agriculture industry. Film the interaction and upload to social media using the hashtag #FlowersForAnimals and challenge three of your friends to do the same." As of Monday morning, Direct Action Everywhere had not uploaded a video of the encounter to Youtube. (Honest question/quick aside: Is this protest based on Daniel Keyes' Nebula award-winning science fiction novel Flowers For Algernon about a lab mouse and ethics and stuff?!?)
Waters, an early champion of seasonal and local eating, has long emphasized serving meat that is local, sustainable, humanely raised and yada yada. In an interview with First We Feast looking back on the ten dishes that "made her career," Ms. Waters lists spring lamb from Dal Porto Ranch, a supplier she has used since the early '70s. "Their spring lambs have the most tender, succulent meat," says Waters, "and when they’re cooked in the wood oven, it’s one of the most delicious things you can imagine. I’ve been to the Dal Portos’ ranch many times through the years."
Chez Panisse was recently included in a new book from Yale history professor Paul Freedman called Ten Restaurants That Changed America.
Berkelyside reports that Direct Action Everywhere is part of a group that opened recently in the Berkeley Animal Rights Center (with the clever acronym ARC). ARC identifies itself as the "first community center for animal rights."