Psycho Donuts scared off some of its vegan customers and incurred the wrath of animal rights groups Friday, National Donut Day, when it gave out free Foie gras donuts to the morning’s first batch of customers.
Though California last year outlawed sale of force-fed-until-fat-engorged goose and duck livers, the state doesn’t ban giveaways. So, no, the stunt wasn’t illegal, but it certainly drummed up a fair bit of outrage—something Psycho Donuts is no stranger to, considering its name and “loony bin” theme have long angered mental health advocates.
People were so furious, some took to Facebook to air their grievances—except for one guy, who showed up in person at the San Jose location (another location is in Campbell) with a sign and remained polite and calm the whole time, according to staff. Others weren’t so kind.
“Have fun eating shame, dumbass,” MissCass Wolf posted on the company’s Facebook page.
“I guess when your donuts are mediocre (seriously the last donut I had from you folks was so dry I could have suckled more moisture from the desiccated toe of a 2,000-year-old mummy) you have to resort to the whole ‘psycho’ schtick,” wrote Gina Grega. “When schtick’s not enough, I guess you have to stoop to the shock promo campaigns like this foie gras ridiculousness. Wow. Animal cruelty is so edgy.”
“Nothing says trendy, progressive hipster like ramming a metal rod down a duck’s throat to enlarge an organ 600+ percent,” adds a commenter under the nom de plume Christine YouBetcha DontchaKnow.
“What’s next? Fried puppies?” asks Rusty Royden.
A local CBS report says the Facebook outrage escalated to death threats against the restaurant’s chef Ron Levi. On Monday, no comments on the Facebook page could be construed as violent or threatening.
Psycho co-owner Web Granger said he didn’t see any direct threats, but , he added, his stores did field a few phone calls from people asking how they would feel if someone “grabbed you by the throat and force-fed you with a tube.”
Some of the online comments were from out-of-state PETA activists ganging up on Psycho, Granger said. A San Francisco-based pro-foie gras advocacy group reached out to inform him as much.
Meanwhile, in response to literally hundreds of deprecating comments, Psycho staff began nixing some of the most vitriolic.
“We welcome your feedback and your right to express your opinions, however, we are a family friendly business,” the company wrote. “Any posts which contains disturbing images, and or offensive language will be deleted and the offender will be banned. Thank you for your continued support and understanding.”
Sarah Kishler found that statement a tad dishonest. The former Psycho customer said she was banned from the bakery’s Facebook page without posting anything remotely offensive.
“Their picture should be in the dictionary under ‘disingenuous,’” Kishler said, adding that she doubts Psycho’s claims that it received “full-blown violent threats,” as CBS reported. “Alarm bells go off in my librarian brain.”
Others accused Psycho of creating fake profiles, lying about death threats, removing Yelp reviews and unjustifiably deleting comments.
Though it’s a popular animal rights cause to champion, there’s some debate about the cruelty of Foie gras farms. Celebrity chef and traveler Anthony Bourdain defended Foie gras on his show several years ago, dispelling the notion that birds are force-fed by metal rods for hours when it’s actually a seconds-long, four-times-a-day procedure—which could still be considered cruel, depending on your sensibilities and what other cruel-and-unusually-manufactured food you eat.
“We do have a loyal vegan following, which we’re grateful for, and even though we sell bacon on donuts, they felt that this was going too far,” Granger said. “You know, some people are vegan, some people only eat locally, there’s a lot of different moral positions you could take. It depends on the person. There are people who make Foie gras humanely, and some that do not. It all comes down to what choices you want to make as a consumer.”
Granger said that Psycho Donuts never purposely sought controversy for publicity’s sake. For example, the restaurant toned down down a few donut names after complaints: “Bipolar” to “Mood Swing” and “Massive Head Trauma” to “Headbanger.”
“We at Psycho donuts are always trying to take the donuts to new places, to push the boundaries,” Granger said Monday. “We weren’t out to create controversy.”