AR-News: Animal-rights vandals hit chef's home, shop
wolfcrest at hotmail.com
Tue Aug 19 17:43:01 EDT 2003
Animal-rights vandals hit chef's home, shop
Activists call French-style foie gras cruel to birds
Kim Severson, Chronicle Staff Writer Tuesday, August 19, 2003
A top San Francisco chef has become the target of radical animal-rights
activists in a series of attacks that police are calling domestic terrorism.
Aqua chef Laurent Manrique has been the victim of vandals who spray-painted
his home and splashed his car with acid, and he has received threatening
letters and videotapes.
It's part of what police say may be a national campaign aimed at those who
produce a signature ingredient of French haute cuisine -- foie gras -- and
the chefs who use it.
Foie gras -- fattened goose or duck liver -- has become controversial
because of the way it is produced, which involves force-feeding fowl. How
much the animals suffer -- or whether they suffer at all -- has been the
subject of much debate.
The worst damage came last week when vandals broke into the new foie gras
specialty store and restaurant that Manrique and his partners had planned to
open next month in a historic adobe building on the Sonoma Plaza.
Called Sonoma Saveurs, it will offer various foie gras preparations plus
wine, cheese and other local products.
Vandals plugged new plumbing with chunks of cement, spray-painted the walls
and appliances, and turned on the water, according to police.
The resulting flood forced two neighboring stores to shut down, with little
hope of reopening until next week at the earliest, said property manager
Lori Bremner. She said the adobe in the building, built in 1842, should dry
out, but the damage to the new shop and the loss of business to the
neighbors could send the total tab close to $50,000.
"One would think people who wish to honor animals would not wish to damage
history," Bremner said.
Sonoma Police Chief John Gurney said his department is coordinating with
other local police departments and the FBI. He calls the case "domestic
"It's because of the nature of the crime and the fact that they are trying
to impact the freedom of citizens here and intimidate them to change their
course of business," he said. "That happens to be illegal."
The attacks began last month when vandals sprayed red paint on Manrique's
Mill Valley home and on the Santa Rosa home of Didier Jaubert, a partner in
the foie gras venture. Attackers also put acid-based etching foam on their
cars and windows, and glued shut locks and garage doors. The Bite Back Web
magazine says that etched on Manrique's car windows was "foie gras is animal
torture" and "murderer."
A sacred Buddha statue in Manrique's yard was also damaged. Manrique, the
French-born chef of San Francisco's famed Aqua restaurant, is a practicing
The perpetrators left a videotape, which Manrique said was shot from his
garden and showed his family relaxing inside their home. It was accompanied
by a letter warning that they were being watched.
"I freaked out, and my wife started to panic," he said.
Then came threatening letters that warned the men to "stop or be stopped,"
Police Chief Gurney declined to say whether there were any suspects but
called the attackers sophisticated and relentless.
The attacks have been documented on the Bite Back Web magazine, and Manrique
and Jaubert say they are scared because their home addresses have been
posted on the Internet.
"What are they going to do next?" Manrique asked. "Are they going to go
Foie gras has long been a staple of French cooking and is a favorite
ingredient among high-end chefs. It is created when ducks or geese are
force- fed grain through tubes that are put down the birds' throats.
The liver-fattening method was invented by the Egyptians and perfected by
French grandmothers, Manrique said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have a national campaign against
the nation's three foie gras producers. That includes the California
operation, in which Jaubert and Manrique are working with Guillermo Gonzalez
and his company, Sonoma Foie Gras, to create a new, hand-crafted line of
The two other producers are located in the Hudson Valley region of New York
Cem Akin of Santa Cruz, a research associate with PETA, denied that his
group is involved with the foie gras violence in the Bay Area, but he called
foie gras "one of the most egregiously cruel food products out there." But
Jaubert and Manrique say the ducks, which are raised and processed on an old
walnut farm near Stockton, are not caged, have ample water and shade, and
aren't stressed. The company processes about 1,200 ducks a week.
Because of his love of foie gras, Manrique is no stranger to animal rights
protests. He was the focus of pickets and an Internet campaign when he was
chef at Campton Place in San Francisco and, before that, at the Waldorf-
Astoria in New York. But none of the previous protests were violent.
Although the vandalism has pushed back the scheduled opening of the Sonoma
shop, the partners have no plans to stop.
"We are going to keep going. We cannot see their point," said Jaubert.
"These people, they have a cause, of course. We don't deny this. But we are
very disturbed by the way they are acting and the methods they are using. We
don't think this is acceptable."
Says Manrique, who was born and raised in the foie gras region of France,
"Welcome to America, the country of free speech, eh?"
E-mail Kim Severson at kseverson at sfchronicle.com.
"If you believe in evolution by natural selection, how can you believe that
feelings suddenly appeared, out of the blue, with human beings?"
Steven Siviy, Behavioral Scientist
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