If you heard or read about the acts of civil disobedience that took place in London last weekend, then climate activism is doing its job. Protesters from Animal Rebellion were hard at work raising awareness of the environmental crisis precipitated by meat and livestock farming by bringing the capital to a standstill in the name of a plant-based future.
More than 100 people were arrested over the weekend after activists blocked roads and targeted shops. Animal Rebellion had put out a message “calling all vegans to occupy London”. It was joined in its action by the Just Stop Oil coalition.
The group is currently campaigning for animal and climate justice with a fortnight of non-violent civil disobedience from 7 to 20 October, calling on its supporters to “peacefully occupy key sites across London to force the government to address the destruction caused by the animal farming and fishing industries, and take urgent action against the climate emergency”. The action had been planned for last month, but it was called off after the death of the Queen.
Activists targeted restaurants and shops including hunting and fishing shops as well as Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason. Several newspapers reported that one AR activist caused as much as £100,000 worth of damage by pouring milk onto carpets at Fortnum & Mason.
One of the activists, Sofia Fernandes Pontes, explained: “There was a very simple message which was to bring about a plant-based future. What it essentially meant for us was that following these two demands, the first one would be to help farmers transition to a more sustainable, plant-based system and then to use that freed-up plan and bring back our lush green forest, which would help the carbon drawdown.
“I think we did manage to get that message across that we need to end dairy. And it did get people talking about it, whether it was positive or negative, it did have people talking about and hopefully getting people researching exactly what the dairy industry is doing.”
As part of its own month-long Occupy Westminster campaign, Just Stop Oil blocked roads including Baker Street and Edgware Road, and roads around Piccadilly Circus. The coalition is demanding the UK government immediately halts licences and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.
This is just the latest example of people power driving headlines and creating headaches for a government that is increasingly turning away from its environmental responsibilities and legal and manifesto commitments to create a cleaner, greener society. Even huge charities such as the National Trust, RSPB and Wildlife Trust have said they could urge millions of their members onto the streets to demonstrate against Conservative policies they call an “attack on nature”.
One thing is clear: increasing numbers of concerned citizens will be forced to take direct action until our political leaders enact the will of the majority and start protecting the planet, including by greening up our food system and promoting a plant-based diet.