Hundreds of protesters campaign against animal cruelty

Hundreds of protesters gathered in the City of London to campaign against animal cruelty.

Animal Rebellion, an offshoot of climate change group Extinction Rebellion, set off from Smithfield Market in Farringdon where they held a rally and made speeches before parading through the City.

About 600 protesters, who included members of the groups Defend Direct Action-Animal Offensive and Camp Beagle, as well as members of a second Extinction Rebellion offshoot, Ocean Rebellion, held up banners and signs saying “Unite for Animal Justice”, “Free the MBR Beagles” and “Meat is Murder” as they marched.

On the two-mile route the protesters played drums and blew whistles and chanted messages including “Whose skin? Not ours” and “Whose flesh? Not ours”.

Protesters outside Smithfield Market
Protesters outside Smithfield Market (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The demonstrators stopped outside certain businesses where they made speeches urging companies to do more to protect animals and marine species.

They included food giant Unilever, where traffic was blocked at the nearby Blackfriars bridge for about 30 minutes, the agricultural company Cargill and the Marine Stewardship Council offices.

While outside the Unilever offices, a member of Animal Rebellion said Unilever had been in touch with campaigners and were in discussions with them, which prompted the crowd to cheer.

The rally was then led by Camp Beagle, a protest group calling for the release of beagle dogs at MBR Acres in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, which rears dogs specifically for animal research.

The Metropolitan Police tweeted there was a blockage at Blackfriars Bridge due to the protesters but it was resolved shortly afterwards.

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Outside Cargill, in Queen Victoria Street, and the Marine Stewardship Council, in Snow Hill, the protesters held sit-ins while listening to talks from members of Animal Rebellion, HS2 Rebellion and the campaigning group Animal Think Tank.

While outside the Marine Stewardship Council offices, members of Ocean Rebellion held up a model of a pink octopus alongside banners which read “Ocean Rebellion” and “MSC sustainable fishing is a lie”.

They later returned to Smithfield Market where they sat down and ate free vegan samosas, curries, pasta and quiches, some of which were donated by members of the Hare Krishna movement.

The campaigners stopped traffic during their march and were escorted by hundreds of Metropolitan Police and City of London Police officers.

Extinction Rebellion protests
Demonstrators at Smithfield Market (James Manning/PA)

Alea Northcott came from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, with her three young children to take part in the march.

Ms Northcott said she became vegan five months ago after watching the Cowspiracy and Seaspiracy documentaries on Netflix.

She told the PA news agency: “I’m terrified for the future of my kids. We’ve all gone vegan and I’m rallying on social media to get my peers to go vegan as well.

“Going vegan is something we can do right now, putting pressure on the Government is going to take more time.”

She praised the work of Animal Rebellion, adding: “They’re amazing – they’re the ones changing it for us, we’ve only just joined it all. We’re so late to it. I want to thank them so much because they’re fighting for my children’s future.”

Ronan Falsey, a member of Camp Beagle, said he was delighted with the turnout and that Animal Rebellion and Camp Beagle had joined forces for the march along with the other groups.

“I joined Camp Beagle because I’m a dog lover and until I was aware of them, I had no idea there was still testing being done on animals,” he told PA.

“There’s currently an injunction pending which bans us from protesting at the camp [at MBR Acres], so we’ve decided to bring it right under the noses of the Government instead.”

Speaking about the protest, he added: “It’s great. We’re all here for the same purpose, and there are people here who are supporting animal activism or animal welfare.”

A spokesperson for the Marine Stewardship Council said: “We’re surprised to have been identified as a stop on this march. The organisers have misunderstood the work of the Marine Stewardship Council and the positive difference we make to safeguard our oceans. We share a common concern to halt the ecological emergency facing the marine environment.”

They added: “The Marine Stewardship Council is a not-for-profit organisation. We work with NGOs, scientists, governments, businesses and industry to create a sustainable, regenerative seafood market. Our work supports, funds and incentivises fishers, scientists and governments to protect ocean habitats, avoid endangered species and take care of fish stocks.”

Cargill, Unilever and Marshall BioResources, which owns MBR Acres, have been contacted for comment.

Elsewhere in London, a community outreach event was held in Brixton by Extinction Rebellion. Members of the group gave speeches at Brixton Recreation Centre.