The owners of a celebrated chain of vegan restaurants say they have received death threats after admitting that they had given up veganism to return to meat eating.
Matthew and Terces Engelhart, whose meat-free Cafe Gratitude chain has gained a celebrity status among vegans to match that of some of its Hollywood clients, also disclosed that they had begun breeding and slaughtering animals at their Be Love farm in northern California.
Now their revelations - first made in a blog written last year - have triggered an angry online campaign after animal rights activists belatedly discovered the 2015 post.
A Facebook page called Boycott Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre - another vegan restaurant the couple opened in San Francisco - has attracted hundreds of likes while protesters have posted a spate of one-star reviews of the restaurants on Yelp.
There have also been attacks on Twitter and a protest last weekend outside one of the outlets in Los Angeles' Larchmont Village district. Footage of what appeared to be the protest on the Facebook page showed demonstrators chanting slogans including "animals are individuals, just like us" and "money is no excuse".
The backlash has even taken the form of threats on the couple's lives, Engelhart told the Hollywood Reporter.
"People have taken up the mob mentality," he said. "It saddens me that the choices we made in the privacy of our home would lead people to feel so betrayed that it's elevated to threats on our lives. I'm very discouraged."
The blog that sparked the campaign featured Terces Engelhart announcing that the couple had cooked their first hamburgers after abandoning 40 years of vegetarianism and 11 years of veganism. Adding insult to injury for committed vegans and loyal restaurant patrons was a photo of her husband chomping into a burger inside a roll and pictures of meat hanging in a fridge.
Explaining his volte-face on eating meat, Engelhart wrote: "We need cows to keep the earth alive, cows make an extreme sacrifice for humanity but that is their position in God's plan as food for the predators.
"Sacrifice is part of life. As in the passion of Christ, we all have to spill our blood for humanity to know the Father. The cow's sacrifice was been ordained, ours we must choose."
Campaigners say the couple's decision is a betrayal of veganism's "belief system". "You are patronising a restaurant that you think has that philosophy, and it turns out it doesn't," Carrie Christianson, founder of the Facebook boycott page, told the Hollywood Reporter. "Vegans should know that this restaurant has a farm that slaughters animals."
The chain has established a widespread reputation and attracted celebrity customers including Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyoncé and Sacha Baron Cohen since the first Cafe Gratitude opened in 2004.