One of the restaurants that came under attack from the dubbed 'vegan vigilantes'.

DURBAN - A group of boys who have beef with meat eaters got up to mischief in the Hillcrest area last week when they targeted restaurants and spray-painted their entrances with the words “meat is murder”.

The boys, dubbed the “vegan vigilantes”, wrote the words on the walls of the Chilli Plum Bistro and Butcher Block restaurants.

Such tactics have been unheard of in South Africa, but recently made headlines in the UK when butchers and farmers faced attacks by vegan activists.

In May, Marlow Butchers in Ashford, Kent was covered in graffiti reading “Stop killing animals, go vegan” and the owners were reportedly subjected to countless threats.

Ursula Haupt, owner of Chilli Plum Bistro, said the boys had been captured on camera, but footage was not being released because she presumed they were minors.

“You can see from the footage that they’re quite small. They were wearing white face masks, beanies and hoodies when they got up to mischief.

“We have not opened charges because we think these were children and children sometimes do silly things.”

Manager of the Butcher Block, Surge Bechard, said it has also not laid charges.

Haupt said if the boys were to return, she would definitely go to the police.

“If anything, they’ve made my restaurant more popular. We were fully vegan when we first opened three years ago but the market couldn’t sustain itself so we had to change our menu.”

She said the boys’ tactics had made no difference to meat eaters. “Nobody has become vegan because of it. In fact, I had to use oven-cleaner to remove the spray paint from the restaurant’s window and that cleaner was tested on animals.”

The picture of the incidents went viral on social media.

On Butcher Block’s Facebook page, it posted: “To those who have beef with us, we totally appreciate and value your opinion (and high rise writing skills) but don’t stress, we have no beef with you! There are some excellent vegetarian and vegan options in the greater Durban area for those unable to find something to their taste on our menu.”

The post was shared more than 450 times.

Bechard said the incident saw more customers flock to the restaurant.

The SA Vegan Society said it was opposed to any kind of illegal methods of activism, which included damage to property.

“South Africa has seen a massive growth in veganism and vegan advocacy recently. This is due to multiple reasons such as growing concerns over climate change, cruelty to animals, water shortages and species extinction,” said spokesperson Joanne Fairbrother.

She said the society supported and encouraged pragmatic and inclusive means of activism through education and awareness.

“We believe it is important to work with businesses or people wanting to help tackle the problems caused by animal agriculture rather than against them.

“We acknowledge the reasonable manner in which the situation was handled and we hope the incident would not deter the restaurants from including plant-based burgers and steaks to their menu.”

[email protected]

SUNDAY TRIBUNE