Smithfield Market protest labelled a ‘symbolic’ message to government

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

The Animal Rebellion Smithfield Market protests are planned for 10 days starting 7 October
The Animal Rebellion Smithfield Market protests are planned for 10 days starting 7 October

Related tags Butcher plant-based

A planned protest at Smithfield Market in London by lobby group Animal Rebellion has been described as a “symbolic’ message to the government to act on climate change.

The group, which holds similar beliefs as Extinction Rebellion, is planning a 10-day protest at Smithfield Market starting 7 October to disrupt businesses there and hopes to have around 10,000 people present.

Speaking to Global Meat News, Animal Rebellion spokesman Alex Lockwood explained why the group choose Smithfield Market as opposed to government buildings or another part of the meat supply chain.

“It is a symbolic place at the heart of the UK meat production industry. We're really keen to focus on our message to the government to take climate change seriously. We've done the research and we need to drastically change our food production systems in both local areas and globally. It's one of the leading causes of climate change and one of, if not the leading cause of, deforestation.

“Our message to government is that they need to move quickly to change to a plant-based food system. Other vegan groups have worked on an individual level but we're looking to make as big a statement as possible to get government to act.”

Smithfield Market Tenants Association has declined to comment on the protest however criticism has been directed toward Animal Rebellion over the impact that will likely be felt by workers at the market in terms of day-to-day disruption and potential loss of livelihood. “We absolutely take ​[the workers of Smithfield] into consideration,” ​said Lockwood. “We're also making sure the emergency services at St. Bart’s ​[Hospital] are not affected. What we want to do is enter into dialogue with Smithfield as much as possible, and we're hoping to talk to people there. The only way we can get the government to act on this issue is through dialogue.

“We are coming with peace in our hearts and we're desperately sorry for the inconvenience we cause but if the predictions on climate change are accurate, we'll all lose our jobs. We're also wondering if 10 days of disruption will affect these businesses financially, and we don't think it's a solid argument.”

The group has yet to enter into any dialogue with Smithfield Market but is adamant the protest will be going ahead. “We'll be there to occupy and that occupation will cause some disruption. If there are enough people there, I'm sure that will disrupt vehicles if not people going in and out of Smithfield.

“It will be as much as possible a symbolic and powerful message to the government that there are people who aren't willing to just sit at home, who are willing to go out to the streets and are willing to participate in civil disobedience in a non-violent way.”

Plant-based target

Amongst Animal Rebellion’s goals is for the UK to switch to a plant-based diet by 2025. Lockwood explains the short time-frame for this target. “The reason we say 2025 is because scientists say we've got a very small window to act and we know that a shift to a plant-based food system could drastically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are going into our environment.

“[Mixed diet] is more likely but for us there is no negotiation. We want to see full justice and liberation for animals. The future that we plan post-climate emergency can't be just for humans alone. That's the thinking that got us into this mess.”

With more traditional meat businesses branching into the plant-based sector, does Animal Rebellion see this as a positive? “Animal Rebellion's view is that anything that brings around a plant-based food system as quickly as possible to reduce animal suffering and to properly combat the climate emergency is a good thing. We would much prefer those organisations to be wholly plant-based providers but if the huge increase in the availability of plant-based foods leads to a step-change in the philosophical and moral view of how we treat animals then that's a good thing.

“While anything short of a full plant-based diet is not something we advocate, we do support and applaud people who shift to a flexitarian diet.”

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