“I just kind of snapped,” Hunter tells PEOPLE. “I thought, I’ll have my own sort of protest. I just wanted to shock them and see if they would go away.”
Although Hunter acknowledges that all of the group’s protests have been peaceful, he says a few have gotten out of hand, especially when members of the group allegedly used a megaphone to scream “murderer” at customers entering and exiting the restaurant. (Marni Jill Ugar, the organizer of the protest told PEOPLE that she does not encourage that type of behavior and tried to calm her group down, but confirmed it did happen.)
Hunter says he began advertising his vegan dishes on the chalkboard out front of the restaurant in an effort to make sure people knew these options were available, but that still didn’t satisfy the protestors, who have been returning to Antler at least once a month since December.
“For me, it’s just really upsetting because we respect everyone’s diet and opinions,” Hunter says, “and that’s why we have had vegetarian and vegan dishes on our menu since 2015.”
Although Hunter admits he felt “a little guilty” after the incident, he adds that he doesn’t understand why the group continues to target only his restaurant when there’s a butcher shop across the street and six or seven other restaurants on the same block that all serve meat.
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Ugar said she chose protesting Antler to “debunk the myth” that they serve ethical, humane meat. Hunter says that they try to source meat from local farms where the animals are treated humanely, and they do not condone bad farming practices. According to Canada’s law, all meat has to go through a federally-inspected slaughterhouse.
“Ultimately, we eat meat and this is reality for people who eat meat, but their beliefs are that all meat is unethical. It doesn’t matter how they’re farmed. It doesn’t matter how they’re raised. It’s all unethical and they want everyone to change.”
Though there was some initial speculation about the sanitary aspect of the stunt, Hunter claims that the health department did pay a visit to Antler following the incident the restaurant did not receive any fines or break any laws.
“There are tons of butcher shops that hang their meat in the window,” Hunter said. “What I did is totally within our rights and laws.”
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Since the video went viral, Hunter says the majority of the public’s response has been in support of his actions and his rights to stage his own counter-protest, but he does hope he can come to a resolution with the group so they can peacefully coexist.
“If I’d known it was going to blow up the way it has I probably wouldn’t have done it,” Hunter admitted. “I don’t want this attention. At first I thought I had played into them too much, and I did feel a little guilty, but I do think the amount of support we’ve received has been worth it.”