Animal rights activists have today (Thursday, December 15) scaled the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) building to urge the UK government to move away from animal agriculture.
At 6am, the Animal Justice Project activists climbed up the building to unfurl a giant 15ft x 9ft banner calling for an urgent end to the industry. This is due to its links to animal suffering and pandemics.
They are urging the government to open up a dialogue on moving towards a plant-based system. They have three demands, which are as follows:
- Implement a subsidies scheme solely incentivising plant-based farming.
- Recognize the urgency of ending animal agriculture to prevent pandemics.
- Translate this recognition into legislative reform.
“Defra have ignored epidemiological research linking large, dirty farms to the emergence and spread of infectious diseases,” Hope Wetherall, campaigner at Animal Justice Project, told Plant Based News. “It’s vital it takes action to save animal and human lives.”
Bird flu sweeps the UK
This action comes as the UK is experiencing what’s thought to be its worst outbreak of avian flu of all time. Intensive farming has been identified as an “ideal incubator” for the disease, due to the fact that animals live in cramped and often poorly ventilated conditions.
Around 3.8 million birds have either died from the disease or been preventatively “culled.” It was reported earlier this month that half of the UK’s so-called “free-range” turkeys have died.
While the current virus is of low-risk to humans, there is a chance it could mutate and spread among us. This means that avian flu has been identified as a pandemic risk.
Around three-quarters of newly emerging infectious diseases originated in animals and mutated before spreading to humans. With our current global food system, we are under constant threat of another pandemic, campaigners warn.
The UK government must act
It’s estimated that around 85 percent of UK land animals are now factory farmed, and this number is growing. Earlier this year, an investigation highlighted the influx of so-called “mega farms” popping up all over the country. Some of these farms hold more than a million animals at a time.
“Farmed and free-living birds have suffered immensely, with the spread of bird flu failing to slow even into summer months for the first time this year,” said Wetherall. “We must act now to prevent these catastrophic consequences.”