Trump-loving Sydney vegan restaurant owner in social media storm

Mark Da Costa draped in a Make America Great Again (MAGA) flag at his restaurant, Hale & Hearty. Photo: Hale & Hearty/Facebook.

By ALEC SMART

A Donald Trump supporting vegan diner owner, Mark Da Costa, the proprietor of Hale & Hearty in Waterloo, has drawn criticism and threats of customer boycotts after a series of bizarre social media posts aimed at the LGBTQI community and political opponents.

After posting photos of One Nation senator Pauline Hanson and US President Donald Trump on his Bourke Street diner’s Facebook page, and images of Trump on their Instagram page, Da Costa – also known as Marc Lima – added pictures of himself and friends wearing t-shirts or caps endorsing the American president.

The resulting controversy has attracted a barrage of media interest after the vegan diner’s social media pages exploded with comments, many highly critical of Da Costa’s actions.

On 29 October, after Da Costa posted a video thanking Trump supporters for their patronage and giving the restaurant “the busiest night on record for a Wednesday”, the following statement appeared on the diner’s Facebook profile:

“TODAY WE ANNOUNCE that we are a @realdonaldtrump safe zone. A place to discuss what’s in your heart without prejudice. Hold tight people freedom of speech will be back …”

Reaction

Da Costa’s post drew some some support as well as a considerable number of negative comments. Da Costa responded personally to several of the latter with angry messages, calling some of them “c***s” or similar insults – most of which he later deleted.

To a critic who commented that he was underwhelmed by the food at Hale & Hearty, Da Costa responded, “Go f**k yourself you narrow minded prick. We are vegan. Not political and you are a loser.”

In an online video, Da Costa fumed, “Everyone that has hated on Hale and Hearty and myself … calling me a paedophile for being a Trump supporter and supporting Pauline Hanson, calling me a racist, a bigot and a homophobe, I don’t give a f**k what you think about me. Here is a message to you piss-weak vegans, Hale and Hearty is going nowhere.”

Da Costa doubled down over the weekend on what he called the “left wing fake vegan community”, and posted a video to Hale & Hearty’s Instagram in which he addressed the camera, insisting that he “didn’t care about” the haters.

“I don’t want your money, I don’t want your f***ing masks, I don’t want your vaccine,” he declared. “All I want in here is these people – normal people who don’t abuse each other.”

Homophobic?

Da Costa then provoked the wrath of the LGBTQI community on Monday by posting a graphic of a straight road on Hale & Hearty’s Instagram page, proclaiming: “We Are A Straight Sydney Safe Zone”.

The image was accompanied by a claim that targeting gays and lesbians was justified because of “the inbox abuse we received by community members of the LGTBT [sic] and GAY community for being @realdonaldtrump & @senatorpaulinehanson supporters”.

During a subsequent interview with 7News, Da Costa apologised to Sydney’s LGBTQI community, although he claimed “both sides” were to blame.

“Sorry for being derogative, foul-mouthed, rude and abusive toward the gay and lesbian community. I was angry because someone from that community in Sydney decided to attack my family and my business … which I then absorbed and the anger grew. It was completely disrespectful and unwarranted.”

Yesterday, in a Facebook and Instagram statement, Da Costa shifted the blame for his provocative actions onto a “university student called Jack Bennet”, whom he accused of taking screen shots of his pro-Trump social media posts on his personal Facebook page and sharing them. Da Costa alleged Bennett “posted them to major vegan Facebook sites calling for a boycott of [Hale & Hearty]”.

“Since that post by Mr Bennet, my business and family have received hundred (sic) of threats and vulgar messages from both the vegan and gay community who have labelled the business racist amongst other deplorable things for the posts and being Trumpions (sic).”

A social media message to Jack Bennett, referring to Bennett’s perceived sexual orientation.

Trump and animals

Da Costa justified his enthusiasm for Trump in another social media post that said: “We are a business who are only interested in providing a menu which is cruelty-free and sustainable, and refuse to be held ransom to a bunch of broke left wing university students who think all people MUST think like them.”

Ironically, Trump himself cares little for animal rights, as evidenced by his removal of many protections for both farmed and native American animals, and the sustained reversal of environmental laws established to preserve native habitat.

On top of climate change denial, the Trump administration’s poor record on animal rights has included: permitting hunters to kill bears in their dens; reversing Obama’s ban on hunters bringing elephant trophy parts into the US from abroad; blocking legislation to better regulate cruelty and malpractice in factory farming; ending a century-old bird protection law; rewarding Republican Party donors with lion hunting permits; and, perhaps most controversially, removing thousands of documents detailing animal welfare violations from the US Department of Agriculture website. 

Australian Idol

Da Costa is a former Australian Idol contestant who, after being knocked out in the 2007 season series, fronted covers band The Backlist before pursuing a solo career.

Mark Da Costa depicted in concert in a social media photo.

In April 2013, Da Costa released his first solo EP, Don’t Look Back In Anger, although the following year he was mired in an acrimonious legal custody battle with the mother of his young son, Julian.

During this time, he started a short-lived campaign group for father’s rights, PAPA (Parents Against Parental Alienation), which apparently stalled his songwriting, although he returned to singing for covers bands.

The Hale & Hearty diner first opened in 2015, with the restaurant going fully vegan this year.

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Mark Da Costa was contacted to comment for this article.

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