Jenn Kaplan, Northwest Animal Rights Network board officer, is questioning the veracity of Lark chef/owner John Sundstrom’s claim that foie gras sales at his Capitol Hill restaurant have increased during NARN’s sidewalk protests.

The organization has protested outside Lark every Friday for the past month and has pledged to keep doing so until the restaurant stops serving foie gras. “We see foie gras sales go up on Friday nights,” Sundstrom said on Saturday. Some people order it to "spite the protesters" chanting outside, he said, while others want to see “what the fuss is about.”

“We wouldn’t be surprised if that was something he was just saying so as to dissuade us from protesting against him,” Kaplan said today. “Obviously, that’s difficult for us to falsify, because we don’t have access to his business records,” she said.

Is NARN calling Sundstrom a liar? “I’m not going to call him a liar absent evidence that he’s a liar,” said Kaplan. But: “I think it’s unlikely that his claims are true. Even if they are true, it won’t remain the case that sales increase in the long term.” Kaplan said that in other cities “it has not been the case that there have been increases in foie gras sales after protests.”

Kaplan said that the selection of Lark for protests was somewhat “arbitrary.” (The group’s website also lists Crush and 35th Street Bistro as foie-gras sellers; the former lists foie gras on its current menu online, the latter does not.) “Lark purports to be an ethical restaurant, one that takes the issues of sustainability and local very seriously,” she said. “Foie gras from a factory farm in California is not local and not sustainable, and making claims that it is is deceptive and disingenuous.” Lark’s menu lists the source of its foie gras (seared, with caramelized pear and pain d’epice) as Sonoma; the company, Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras, says it is “committed to the highest standards of animal welfare.”

NARN has “chosen to protest [foie gras] because the cruelty of the product is inherent in the design,” but the group is vegan and is opposed to all meat-eating. Regarding NARN’s overall purpose, Kaplan said, “NARN’s belief is that raising and killing of animals for food is inherently cruel, and while we would love to see Seattle become a vegan city, we realize that that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, and we’re going to take pragmatic steps along the road to decrease cruelty as much as possible.”

To those that take issue with the group targeting a small, locally owned business for protests, Kaplan offered a challenge of logic: “I would ask whether they would apply that principle consistently. If you’re against targeting a small, locally owned business for cruelty to animals, would you be against targeting a small, locally owned business selling child pornography or discriminating against gays and lesbians?”

Kaplan said that NARN will be protesting at other local restaurants.

Sundstrom said Saturday he would not stop serving foie gras: “They say they’re not giving up, and we’re not going to cave in to them.”

Photo from cornichon.org, which also weighs in on the controversy.