Activists to blockade London meat market

New group Animal Rebellion wants 10,000 protesters to shut down Smithfield for a fortnight

Animal Rebellion logo and Extinction Rebellion protesters in Parliament Square, protesting about climate change on 15 April 2019

Animal Rebellion logo © Animal Rebellion, Extinction Rebellion image © Ben Gingell/Bigstock.com

Taking a leaf out of Extinction Rebellion’s book, a new environmental group is planning a fortnight’s disruption at the UK’s biggest wholesale meat market, aiming to change the way Britain eats for the greener.

Animal Rebellion will begin two weeks of civil disobedience at London Central Markets, otherwise known as Smithfield, on October 7th. The market, one of the largest in Europe, is 140 years old, though a livestock market has operated on the site for almost a thousand.

A sister organisation of Extinction Rebellion (XR), Animal Rebellion was set up in June by animal justice advocates inspired by the mass movement and its capacity to capture the public’s imagination with non-violent demonstrations designed to highlight the climate emergency. It has the support of 18 leading animal justice organisations.

Although it is committed to XR’s three demands – that the government make the UK zero-carbon by 2025; tell the truth about the climate emergency; and set up a citizens’ assembly to decide environmental policy – its focus is on the damage being done to the planet by industrialised animal farming and fishing. As the group says on its website: “We cannot end the climate emergency without first declaring the animal emergency.”

The fortnight’s action will involve overnight blockades at Smithfield, which opens at 2am every weekday for traders to do business with the capital’s butchers and restaurants. Animal Rebellion hopes its non-violent protest will encourage members of the public to change their diets and the government to change its policies on food, but expects to be met with “resistance”.

The group wants as many as 10,000 activists to take part, to “demand that the government end the destructive animal farming and fishing industries, and lead transition to a just, sustainable plant-based food system … the only system that can minimise the risk of climate breakdown, halt mass extinction and avert social collapse.” Studies have shown that meat-reducing Britons can eat their way to a zero-carbon economy.

The group’s co-ordinator, Dan Kidby, said: “Animal Rebellion’s message … is that we need to urgently end the industries of animal farming and fishing, and transition to a plant-based food system in order to avert climate breakdown and mass extinction, and ensure justice for farmed animals.

Kidby added that while he expected anger from those whose way of life was being challenged, “drastic times call for drastic measures if we are to have any hope of limiting the ravages of climate change. We’re sorry in advance for the disruption this causes.”

Visit the Animal Rebellion website