Animal Rebellion is working with the UK’s biggest meat market to fight government inaction on climate breakdown.
Animal Rebellion – the sister group to environmental organization Extinction Rebellion – had previously planned to blockade the Smithfield Market for two weeks as part of October’s International Rebellion action on climate breakdown.
The UK actions were organized in what Animal Rebellion described as ‘the face of the government failing to act on the climate and ecological emergency declared by Parliament on 1 May 2019’.
A new market
Now instead of blockading the market, the two sides have reached an agreement that Animal Rebellion will set up a fruit and vegetable market along Grand Avenue, the iconic central thoroughfare through Smithfield Market from October 7 to the morning of October 8.
Animal Rebellion’s ‘Market for 2025’ will be a theatrical, colourful protest showing the group’s vision for Smithfield’s transition to the heart of the UK’s pioneering, plant-based food system that is needed if the UK is to meet its legally binding climate targets and play its role in keeping global temperature rises to below 1.5C.
Leading environmental journalist George Monbiot will open Animal Rebellion’s ‘Plant-Based Market for 2025’ at on October 7 at 5pm.
According to Animal Rebellion, the agreement was made after the two sides discussed a range of issues.
These included workers’ rights, and the threats to jobs and income of a two-week shutdown, as well as safety issues for protesters on the busy industrial site.
Now Animal Rebellion has agreed that it will leave Smithfield on October 8 and take its activists and vision to the Department for Food, Rural Affairs and Agriculture (Defra) which will be its second site for the International Rebellion.
During the overnight protest at Smithfield, the workers – who are paid on tonnage systems – will not be obstructed from carrying on working, ensuring there is no economic disruption to their jobs.
‘A defining moment’
Dan Kidby, one of the organizing activists working to bring hundreds of animal rights groups together under the ‘Animal Rebellion’ banner said: “This agreement with Smithfield Market is a defining moment, not only in the history of the animal rights movement, but in the UK’s transition to a plant-based food system. We believe Smithfield were convinced that our vision of the future is a compelling case, and one that cannot be stopped.
“The evidence is clear: a transition to a plant-based food system is critical to avert climate breakdown and mass extinction. We recognize that others don’t fully agree with our vision.
“We also know that the only way we can ever be powerful enough to transform our society is if we all can set our differences aside, find common ground on which to stand together in mutual love and respect, and make unified demands of government.”
‘Our survival depends on this’
He added: “Our very survival depends upon this. That’s why we had a duty to sit down with those we disagree with and find ways to work together.
“We are grateful that the Smithfield Market Traders Association has come to this dialogue with the same openness and willingness to find a way to send this powerful message to government: its citizens, even those as far apart as meat traders and animal activists, will no longer sit idly by and watch it do nothing on the climate, ecological and animal emergencies.”
‘A secure and sustainable future’
Alex Lockwood, a spokesperson for Animal Rebellion, added:”Our aim in targeting Smithfield was never to cause its workers economic disruption, but to share our vision for what the market could and should be in a just, secure and sustainable future.
“A shift towards a plant-based food system is the only way we can justly tackle the climate emergency. We will always stand up for all animals, and we will work alongside those who demand the government tells the truth about the crises we face.
“We need a just transition into a more sustainable food system, and that means government taking responsibility for ensuring there is funding and programmes for all workers currently in unsustainable and unjust roles. That’s why we’ll leave Smithfield for Defra for this two-week rebellion.”
Lockwood says Defra has failed to safeguard our food, or to protect farmers, and is ‘failing to build a sustainable food industry, one that serves our needs, protects the environment and respects the rights of animals’.
He added: “They are failing us all and leading us towards climate breakdown.
“And make no mistake — Defra is hugely powerful. It could be on our side. It could set greenhouse gas limits that avoid catastrophe. It could end the animal emergency. But it hasn’t. It won’t. We make no apology for disrupting government here and staying here for as long as it takes.”
PBN has contacted a representative of Smithfield Market for comment.