Tag Archives: “french cuisine”

Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting? La Palette Protest – May 12, 2012

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Conscientious objections to horsemeat

Conscientious objections to horsemeat

Written by: Heather Clemenceau

(All images copyright Heather Clemenceau – use with permission only)

Again we are joined by many supporters from Toronto Pig Save who I’m sure also feel our pain.  Unlike the protest on April 27th,  La Palette co-owner Shamez Amlani only interacted with us long enough to politely ask some protesters to move away from the door.  The glass partition at the front of the restaurant was down tonight as the weather was spring-like. I can’t imagine that the continual honking of support can be pleasant for diners with the glass partition removed,  but again,  most customers tonight are bar patrons and not dinner patrons.  And it’s Queen West, so they’re likely used to honks and  the screeching of tires on asphalt as accompaniment to their Belmont Steaks and Seattle Slew Stew.  Fine dining doesn’t get any better than this!  Bone Appetite!   (pun intended).

Peaceful protest at La Palette

Peaceful protest at La Palette – we are conscientious – we avoid blocking the street and the entrance to the restaurant.

La Police at La Palette

La Police at La Palette

Tonight, we also had a non-confrontational visit from the police.  They either happened by, which would be one hell of a coincidence, or they were called by someone.  They chatted with a few of us for a few minutes and then went inside to talk to Shamez.  In short order (pun intended) they went on their way without any further questions.

Aside from one restaurant patron and a couple of drive-by hecklers, we experience only positive comments.  I spoke at length with a man and his teenage daughter about why many people are opposed to horse slaughter.  We’ve also seen Shamez get frazzled by a lone protester who showed up nightly through the week, where patrons were seated at the front of the restaurant with a good view of the protest signage.

La Palette wasn't expecting a mini-protest through the week......

La Palette wasn’t expecting a mini-protest through the week……

Showing support for the horses

Showing support for the horses

The mini-protest continues

The mini-protest continues

All opposed,  please say "neigh" to horsemeat

All opposed, please say “neigh” to horsemeat

Normally,  we don’t interact with the diners at La Palette when we protest.  The vast majority of disquieting interactions are due to the customers trying to provoke an argument. But on this Saturday,  one pugnacious patron is wearing his pugilistic proclivities on his sleeve, literally.  Notice the T-Shirt.  Well,  I’m hardly offended,  but the FCUK brand has been controversial in the US,  with the Mayors of various cities telling the FCUK people to remove their ads from billboards throughout their cities.  The brand also features female models engaging in physical fights.  So I’m guessing this particular patron is the kind of asshat who likes to go a few furlongs (pun intended) with people to deliberately yank their chains.

It's the customers who always wanna be startin' sumthin'

It’s the customers who always wanna be startin’ sumthin’

In any case,  this guy arrived with a female partner,  and they proceeded directly inside without any conversation with any of the protesters.  After about 2 minutes, he marched outside and ponies (pun intended) up to Bob (poor Bob – why does everyone want to start something with him?)  He turns to Bob and asks him if he’s a vegetarian.  Bob “assumes the position” – sign over head,  perhaps an evolutionary strategy to appear bigger to the person on the offense?  Why do people assume that we must be rawfoodists living entirely off-the-grid in order to be able to ethically protest against horsemeat?  Granted,  most of the protesters are at least vegetarian,  if not vegan.  He proceeds to grill (pun intended) Bob on whether he eats this or that,  and when he receives his response,  our customer announces that it’s all “bullshit.”  “How dare you come to my restaurant on my night?”  Well duh!  It’s always going to be “someone’s night” at La Palette,  isn’t it?  Why not yours?  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is entrenched in Canada’s constitution, guarantees freedom of peaceful assembly in section 2(c),  but it says nothing about refraining from protesting on any Saturday night that might conflict with your own personal plans.  Get over yourself.  A few terse words are exchanged, and then the guy lets better judgement prevail and goes back inside, and fortunately we don’t see him for the remainder of the evening.

If Shamez soon does not find himself a better class of customer, we may perhaps see La Palette portrayed on this show.

La Palette Protesters and Street-scape

La Palette Protesters and Street-scape

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La Palette Protest – April 27, 2012

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"La Palette",  protest,  toronto,  "Queen Street West" , "french restaurant", horse,  horsemeat

Some members of our group, relaxed and chatting prior to the shitstorm soon to follow.

Written by : Heather Clemenceau

(All images copyright Heather Clemenceau – use with permission only)

On Friday, April 27th, I attended the protest rally in support of Canadian and American horses, held at La Palette restaurant in Queen West, where many conscience-driven protesters have maintained vigil for about two months now.

"La Palette" , "horse slaughter",  "animal cruelty"

While we love and enjoy horses, there are many irrefutable facts surrounding the inhumanity of their slaughter, and their status as a “non-food” animal.

La Palette, co-owned by bike-culture enthusiast Shamez Amlani, is one of the few holdouts in Toronto still serving horsemeat, other restaurants having capitulated long ago that horsemeat was at best, of “indeterminate origin,” and at worst, a chemical cocktail of cruelly-derived meat that by Shamez’ own description is “offensive to the English population.” Having encouraged other French restauranteurs to boycott American booze, Shamez now finds himself on the receiving end of this very effective form of expression, which now includes the Humane Society groups of Canada.

"Toronto Police,"  "Mounted Unit" "La Palette Protest,  horse,  horsemeat

We’re pretty sure this guy is pro-horse…..

While we’re unsure of La Palette’s customer demographics, Queen West itself is home to an eclectic mix of dodgy and/or unique retail shops, and the occasional art gallery and vintage clothes stores, primarily patronized by aging skinny-jeaned hipsters who have not quite retired from the 80s punk sub-culture scene. Most patrons tonight are sitting at the bar rather than eating, and appear to be made up of the local community rather than epicureans from old-world horse-eating countries.

"la Palette",  vegan,  protest,  horsemeat

Tonight we’re joined by vegan protesters….bringing our group headcount to about 15.

"la palette" horsmeat,  protest

Pro-Horse Supporter stops by and shows pics of horses he has rescued.

I’d been forewarned that tensions had flared recently. While Shamez and some staff members were primarily confined to making sarcastic remarks or occasional outbursts, the worst invective actually came from their customers, who had in the past tried to taunt the protesters with horsemeat or stories of their own animal cruelty. Peaceful protesters were taunted about their weight and appearance etc. and on the 27th, these taunts reached critical mass.

"La Palette" , horsemeat,  "Queen West" , confrontation

What starts as a heated discussion…….

The first 2 hours of a 3 hour planned protest (all protest-related paperwork is duly prepared by the organizers and forwarded to the proper authorities) were uneventful – protesters politely engaged various passersby who expressed a mix of curiosity, skepticism, and often outright endorsement of our cause. We’ve even attracted a few “groupies.” At the start of hour 3 the ad hominem attacks went positively nuclear when two regular patrons, not known for swimming in the sane side of the pool, left the restaurant, walked directly and purposefully towards a group of vegan supporters and uttered a loud “Fuck You.”

“On second thought, I wouldn’t fuck you, because you are un-fuckable.” “I would rather fuck your dog.” This declared by an aging, pot-bellied misogynist asshat known for making these drive-by slurs, to a young woman, who didn’t even engage him verbally. Hell no – like any of us would waste our womanly charms on this sleazeball – not even if we’re faced with a fucking apocalypse.  Anyway, while we’re accustomed to opposition or disagreement (which we handle with a quiet dignity), we stood by in astonishment while he continued his expletive-filled tirade, and his red-haired companion deciding to make her argument more emphatic by grasping a protester’s arm while arguing with her. And that folks, is an assault. In contrast, and with palpable coolness, the accosted protester did not react.

"La Palette",  CHDC,  "Canadian Horse Defence Coalition" ,  protesters,  Toronto,  "Queen Street West" ,

We Serve Horsemeat Steaks This Big……..

How far down the rabbit hole will we go tonight? Batten down the hatches folks, because it ain’t over yet – the shoutdowns now going nuclear, Shamez makes a dash outside just as the customers beat a hasty retreat (note to Shamez – you’d be proud, at least they left on foot and didn’t get into a gas-guzzling car). According to Shamez, the protesters have all increased his business three-fold via our “marketing efforts,” so he very theatrically pulls out his wallet and with a flourish, starts handing out money (one protester scores a $20) before he abruptly stops. Shamez, you had a $50 bill in that stash – where is the love?

provocateurs,  "La Palette",  horsemeat,  CHDC,  protest,  horse,

After a seriously misogynist rant, these provocateurs retreat on foot. Protesters are regularly harassed by this couple.

At times raising his fist close to a protester’s face, Shamez completely abandoned any past pretense of politeness; he attempted to shout down our $20 recipient, invaded his space, and made many of us fearful that he was about to either pop a blood vessel or pop the protester. I’m left wondering if his protest against American booze went down like this?

"La Palette" , horsemeat,  protest,  "Queen Street West,  "French Restaurant"

From here it’s all downhill….

"La Palette",  protest,  horsemeat,  CHDC,  "Canadian Horse Defence Coalition" , Toronto

Rock, Paper, Scissors…..

"La Palette" , protest,  horse,  horsemeat,  Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, CHDC,  "french cuisine"

Lines are being crossed and boundaries are being breached here…..for some unknown reason, the dude at left, a friend or associate of Amlani, finds some hilarity in the confrontation.

chdc,  "La Palette", "french cuisine" , toronto, horse, horsemeat,  protest,  CHDC

Cause for Concern

After we make it plain that the customer started the incident, Shamez broke down and apologized on behalf of his clientele – “that should not have happened.” Of course it shouldn’t, but he needs a better class of customer. In the interim, the rest of us will be committed to getting in our six-cylinder SUVs to drive down to La Palette instead of riding our environmentally low-impact equines – those same ones he would like to serve up with a side of oats and carrots, under the guise of “multiculturalism.” Which of course begs the question, since horsemeat is purported by Shamez to be an ethnic dish, is this something that the ethnically-diverse Toronto should embrace?

"La Palette"  ,  CHDC,  horsemeat,  protest,  horse

First He Argues, Then Shamez Apologizes for Customer’s Behaviour

Personally, I think this is a red-herring, because this is not what mutlculturalism means to me. While a lot of vegetarians, vegans, and horse lovers would not want to contemplate it, why not open a restaurant in any of the European countries that serve horse, because the vast majority of Canadians won’t eat it. Sure Shamez, we know your Canada includes Quebec, where horsemeat is popular in certain regions, but you’re not in Quebec.

cfia,  "La Palette" , horsemeat,  horse,  "Toronto french restaurant", foodies, "Canadian Food Inspection Agency"

The CFIA is Not Transparent About Testing Horsemeat

And please, let’s be honest about what multiculturalism is not – it is not a defense of ethnic narcissism – whereby some groups appear to hold the opinion that they possess exclusive identities that are superior to other cultures. Multiculturalism is NOT an apology for limiting human rights or excusing cruel practices to either humans or animals. Canadians have universally shown that we do not accept Sharia law in our country, nor do we tolerate practices brought to our country that promote oppression, sexual harassment, genital mutilation, or oppression of those who express their sexuality or orientation differently than the majority. There are many viewpoints imported into Canada which should be left in the “old country” as they only serve to reinforce popular prejudice.

While I’m not suggesting that eating horsemeat is on a par with these crimes, I am making a point about multiculturalism and incrementalism as it applies to food handling and consumption, and the practice of desensitizing people to the eating of unusual foods without regard for how they are raised, obtained, or killed.  Should Canadians be willing to accept the eating of dogs and cats in Canada,  merely because it is accepted practice in some other locales in the world?  Should we be afraid to critique the eating of Bear Paw soup because to do so  might subject us to cries of “racism?”  Witness the deluge of horsemeat-related opinion pieces coming out of the Toronto Sun (also noteworthy for it’s “Sunshine Girl” – another cultural anachronism). In the past few months we’ve observed numerous horsemeat articles by Toronto based newspapers, seemingly intent on softening up the market for horsemeat. Is it a mere coincidence that they are timed to coincide with the re-introduction of horsemeat to the La Palette menu? In my opinion, these articles have been published to attract attention. The authors of these opinion pieces have likely never spent a single day with a living horse, which is regrettable.

horses,  horsemeat,  "La Palette" , protest,  democracy.  "Occupy Toronto" , CFIA,  CHDC

Horses Deserve Respect – They Are Not Food Animals

If they had, they would perhaps “get” much of the message we have been getting out to the public – that not only is horsemeat cruelly derived, it is not safe to consume non-food animals who have received drugs not intended for food animals, despite what the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has asserted. That they do receive such drugs, not exclusive of Phenylbutazone (horse anti-inflammatory) is not in dispute. Claude Boissoneault, CFIA National Specialist, Red Meat Program, indicated to the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition (CHDC) in October 2010 that in the past 5 years, 698 samples of equine meat was submitted for phenylbutazone testing. According to Agriculture Canada slaughter numbers, that is 0.18% of 385,339 horses slaughtered in 5 years – an abysmally weak cross section of testing. If the CFIA hasn’t had a single positive in eight years it doesn’t say much for the accuracy of their test. You can’t find a substance you’re not looking for.

On the other hand,  the EU is doing a better job finding Phenylbutazone in their horsemeat supplies,  a finding which is made all the more striking and relevant due to the “passporting” system in place in some EU countries.  The passport system is intended to keep horses that have been given non-permissable drugs out of the food chain entirely,  however as we can see from this link,  even that system doesn’t work  perfectly.  Not only has drug-tainted horsemeat entered the food chain in Europe,  it has been recalled long AFTER reaching consumers.  What do these incidents in the EU suggest to you about the horsemeat supply in Canada,  which uses the deeply-flawed EID document to “track” horses?

The writers of these articles may choose to consume meat that is not properly tested for safe consumption, but they are wrong to advise their readers to do the same, and the Toronto Sun and other papers should conduct better research. And of course, it goes without saying that we believe that Shamez is wrong to serve it.

"La Palette"  ,  horsemeat,  horse,  CHDC,  Toronto,  multiculturalism,  protest, "French Restaurant"

In Speaking with Onlookers, We Provide Factual Information

Disagreement on this subject matter is unavoidable. This post is not about where you live or what you prefer to eat. Incrementalists and foodie-freaks equate strong criticism of their ideas with the idea that such criticism is a move to stifle their rights to eat whatever they wish. But the majority of people polled in Canada are opposed to horse slaughter – that’s where La Palette chooses to serve its horsemeat. So we will be there, asserting our right to peaceful assembly, until such time that reason prevails and perpetual hypocrite Shamez Amlani realises that our position on horsemeat is not much different from his position on cars or American liquor. Except of course, when you consider that horses are sensitive, sentient animals who generally start their lives as private pets, carriage horses, performance horses, children’s ponies, and cowboy steeds. So why is he still serving this product to his clientele?

(All images copyright Heather Clemenceau – use with permission only)