Finally, Momofuku Ko has felt the wrath of angry vegans! On Saturday, the Animal Protection & Rescue League conducted a two-hour-long sidewalk demonstration that took about a dozen protesters from Ko to Noodle Bar. Organizer Bryan Pease told us that some weeks ago, the APRL put about 200 foie gras–serving restaurants “on notice,” and that David Chang “stood out as an obvious first target” because he responded to outreach attempts with a “scathing blog” (far from agreeing to eliminate foie gras from his menus, Chang promised to serve it nightly). On Saturday, Chang, never one to duck an issue, confronted the protesters personally, and it seems he all but told them to stuff it.
According to Pease and his brother Michael, Chang came out of his restaurant to speak with them for about twenty minutes. “He seems to be socially conscious of issues like this,” Michael told us, “but he thought we were being illogical, and that the process isn’t painful. He said we should go to McDonald’s or other establishments selling beef or chicken. He didn’t see this as being any more cruel than any other form of meat.” Asked whether it mattered that Chang had promised to donate foie gras proceeds to food banks, Pease said, “It doesn’t excuse what we consider an egregious form of animal cruelty.” He was also dismissive of Chang’s visits to Hudson Valley Foie Gras: “They do the force-feeding as silently and calmly as possible for the white-glove tours.” Pease then handed us an informative DVD narrated by Roger Moore.
Rest assured, this won’t be the last we hear from the APRL — the San Diego–based organization (which helped to get anti–foie gras legislation passed there as well as in other California cities) is opening a branch in New York, and this was merely their “debut protest.” If the group’s “sustained presence” policy is any indicator, it won’t be the last one at Momofuku, either. This from their official playbook:
7. Choose a target. Based on the response from the restaurants, choose a popular restaurant in an area with plenty of pedestrian traffic and be sure that the location is easily accessible to activists and relatively well known. Only one restaurant should be selected at a time. A sustained presence of demonstrators, using the foie gras campaign posters and literature, should protest at the restaurant on a regular basis, preferably a minimum of once per week during their busiest hours. These demos will be quiet vigils designed to make diners lose their appetites as they view posters on their way in to the restaurant.
It should be noted that Saturday’s protest wasn’t exactly quiet, and involved a lot of chanting. So which other businesses can look forward to this “sustained presence”? The Pearse brothers won’t yet say. When we left them, they were bidding farewell to their fellow protesters and agreeing to meet up again at the Veggie Pride Parade.