AR-News: Animal-rights vandals hit chef's home, shop

jim robertson wolfcrest at
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," 
said Jaubert.

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 
after me?"

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

"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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