The Fat Cow and Oyster Bar in Walnut Grove is taking horse meat off the menu, after the restaurant owner’s family and staff received death threats.
“We have been under a lot of scrutiny over the past few days for selling horse meat on our menu. We have been allowing people to voice their opinion: we think it’s important to have open conversation as this pushes and sparks progress and understanding,” said Chris Roper, the owner and head chef at the Fat Cow and Oyster Bar.
“However, when this conversation turns into death threats, online bullying attacking of our young son, verbally abusing our staff and threatening to burn our business to the ground, I need to speak up and take action,” Roper wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
The Fat Cow has offered horse meat on its menu for the past six months. They have served it to hundreds of people without complaint until now, Roper said.
“One person from the States shared that we serve horse on an anti-slaughtering website last week and it’s been crazy ever since then. It’s really the same eight people.”
“The online comments are coming from Colorado, Florida and other places,” he said.
As the chef at the restaurant, he decided to offer his customers horse after trying it in Vancouver, where many restaurants have it on the menu.
“We enjoyed it and thought it would be an interesting item to have on the menu. We started to research it. We used reliable and government backed websites like CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), which said that all meat in Canada is killed humanely and all meat in Canada must be drug-free.”
The agency is very specific when it comes too how animals areheld, killed and treated while being readied for slaughter, he wrote.
“That said, my family, staff and business’ well being and safety is not worth a menu item, so we will remove horse off our menu before the end of May and will replace it with something new and exciting.”
Roper said his staff were being harassed and threatened every time they picked up the phone.
“One person wished cancer upon me. Another person said I should kill myself. I made the decision, enough is enough.”
No one has come into the restaurant to verbalize their views, he said.
The death threats have been forwarded to the Langley RCMP, but they told Roper it is difficult to track threats made online.
“I’ve had some people write us privately to support us. But this is the horse capital of B.C., so we recognize that.”
That’s why he felt it was important to allow all the comments to continue online, to allow the dialogue to continue, even if some of it is threatening in nature, he said.
As a chef, Roper said he is committed to keeping himself informed on all practises and regulations regarding food.
He is still in talks with CFIA to make sure the website information on slaughter practices is up-to-date to and ensure the horse meat being offered for human consumption is drug-free.
In the meantime, he said, the restaurant will carry on with business as usual.
“It’s hard to read sometimes and we are hoping it calms down a bit.
“We want to focus on the restaurant and our guests.”