While on its face it might seem odd that Los Angeles' vocal vegan minority would be tossing off (alleged) insults and death threats towards the owners of one of the city's most celebrated plant-based restaurants, according to The Hollywood Reporter that's exactly what's happening.
In a post put up yesterday by staff writer Gary Baum, THR says that Cafe Gratitude founders Terces and Matthew Engelhart have been getting hit with a ton of hate mail after someone started circulating online a 14-month old blog post about the couple's decision to begin raising and eating animals on their private farm, called Be Love.
The crux of the argument for many of the vegans reached for comment by The Hollywood Reporter is that they feel lied to, or at least misled, about the ideals of the restaurant owners who they've been supporting by eating at Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre. Calling a restaurant 'vegan' is considered by many to be a more politicized statement than simply 'plant-based', and often comes with connotations of speaking out against animal cruelty and consumption, which leaves many vegans feeling uncomfortable after finding out the Engelharts have begun that process on their own property.
Many vegans feel lied to, or at least misled
For their part, the Engelharts say the Be Love farm only began slaughtering animals after careful considerations (the two were vegetarians for 40 years and vegans since 2003) about sustainable, zero-waste agriculture, and what the life cycle of an animal means to that ecosystem. They're also quick to point out that they are private citizens who do not commercially sell the meat for profit, and that the day-to-day of restaurant operations at Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre — especially how vegan or un-vegan those places might be — are in no way affected by the couple's personal decision in their own home.
Ultimately The Hollywood Reporter shows some sympathy for those who feel they've potentially been misled, though obviously hurling death threats at an aging couple on a farm hours from Los Angeles doesn't feel like a productive part of the larger conversation. Baum is also quick to point out that many vegans dine at non-vegan restaurants where whole animals may be getting butchered on site, and that not everyone who owns a vegan restaurant themselves must, in fact, espouse the same personal lifestyle.
The Engelharts are also quick to add that between the company's multiple locations they serve some 28,000 entirely plant-based meals every week, which means they're ostensibly part of the solution and not the problem. But that, of course, is a matter of perspective.
The Engleharts also issued this statement earlier this week from their PR representative:
Some of the restaurants' vegan followers discovered that Matthew & Terces Engelhart, the original founders of Café Gratitude/Gracias Madre in the Bay Area, are no longer following a plant-based diet via a blog post that they openly posted on their Be Love Farm website in early 2015.
Their decision to transition to a non-vegan diet was a direct result of launching their private farm/residence, the aforementioned Be Love Farm in Vacaville, and subsequently discovering that part of operating a sustainable, organic farm according to regenerative agricultural practices necessitates having animals as part of the equation to produce manure to fertilize the soil, etc. They witnessed firsthand that like nature can't be without animals, neither can "natural" farming.
While Be Love Farm supplies organic peaches and butternut squash to Café Gratitude/Gracias Madre during the appropriate seasons, as a privately-owned farm and residence, Be Love is a completely separate entity from the restaurants. Those who live and work there are not required to follow a strict vegan diet. This has no relation to the food that is served at the restaurants.
Café Gratitude and Gracias Madre have always served and will continue to serve plant-based cuisine prepared with 100% organic ingredients.