Nottingham Animal Rights group announced plans to protest outside the Ruddington Arms, Ruddington, this evening (14 February), but some took their frustration online, leaving one-star reviews of the pub – many admitting that they had not actually been customers.
Mark Anderson, chef-owner of the Ruddington Arms, told The Morning Advertiser: “None of them are from this area. If you go to their [Facebook] pages, a lot of them are not from Nottingham. How can they have been a customer or have been in?
He added: “They’ve decimated our rating. You work so hard just to end up with this. I’m just annoyed at the way they’ve gone about attacking my small business – there are ways and means [to protest] – but they’ve just gone straight on social media.”
Foie gras – fatty goose or duck liver – is illegal to produce in this country because it involves controversially force-feeding the birds. However, it is legal to import it and sell it in the UK.
David Smith, a member of Nottingham Animal Rights group, said: "Leaving a negative review of the choice made by the business doesn't seem that unreasonable to me.
"It depends what you're judging. If you're judging the quality of the place, then you've got to have gone there and seen the cleanliness to be able to comment on it.
"If you think that the food is awful then you leave a review saying "I've eaten there and the food is awful" and I think similarly, if you think the pub has made some questionable decisions that are very, very cruel, why not leave a review to say so?"
This is not the first time a pub has fallen foul of anti-foie gras activists. Last year, Great Yarmouth pub the King’s Arms was targeted by activists who left fake reviews and allegedly threatened the pub’s staff over the phone.
Association of Multiple Retailers chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Review websites have effectively become third-party intermediaries for guests to communicate with pubs, bars and restaurants instead of engaging with the business themselves."
Reviews 'extremely damaging'
She added: “They can empower customers and businesses but erroneous or deliberately misleading information can have an extremely damaging effect.”
However, she said it was important to note that Facebook and TripAdvisor – which commonly comes under fire from licensees and restaurateurs over fake reviews – were more proactive than ever before in taking action and recognised the negative effect fake reviews could have on a business.