Animal rights activists scale building and erect hammocks in protest against continued support for animal agriculture ahead of COP26.
Campaigners from Animal Rebellion climbed up the structure on Marsham Street in Westminster, which houses both Government departments, before dawn at about 6am – and were still attached to it by 1pm.
Scotland Yard was criticised for allowing the protest to go on for so long – but the force hit back, saying specialist officers were ‘working as quickly as possible to remove those who have climbed the building in the safest way’.
This afternoon, police teams prepared to abseil down from the top of the building, with officers in helmets and harnesses standing by a series of ropes while the protesters lounged in blue hammocks strung across the frame. A large crowd of onlookers, mostly workers on a lunch break, then watched as two officers cut the rope securing a banner draped across the building. The two officers then lowered further down to remove the banner from view.
Animal Rebellion – which, like Insulate Britain, is an offshoot from the bigger Extinction Rebellion group – organised today’s protest ahead of the United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow which starts this Sunday. The group, which was founded in July 2019, said it would continue to take action until the Government ‘defunds meat and subsidises a plant-based transition’ – and the protesters threatened to stay on the building ‘for weeks’.
Police, firefighters and paramedics were all at the scene shortly after the demonstration began in the dark, and the protesters – who were all wearing climbing equipment – then dropped a banner over the entrance. The entrance was cordoned off, with a small group of activists on the ground watching their fellow protesters who lit red flares. But a government official said police and fire crews were ‘just stood watching’, adding: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. Just because they have a banner saying ‘Go Vegan’ doesn’t mean they don’t have malicious intent.’ Another miffed government official said of the protest: ‘Not sure them gluing themselves to an empty building responsible for policing and national security is going to make their case for the world to become vegan.’
It comes as Ministers continue to raise frustrations over civil servants not returning to offices, with Whitehall officials under pressure to spend fewer days working from home to help London recover after the pandemic. One of the activists, who gave his name as James, said he was prepared to stay roped to the building ‘for weeks’. He added that he and the others had hammocks that they would use to sleep in overnight and prolong the protest. ‘We all have hammocks to sleep in and will be here indefinitely – unless the police remove us by force. It could be days or weeks. The fire brigade came by this morning and checked that we were all safe and left.
Scotland Yard responded today to criticism that is officers were ‘just stood watching’ the protesters. Here is the force’s full statement: ‘We’ve seen a number of comments and questions around our response to a demonstration on Marsham Street today, where four activists have scaled a building. Firstly, we are working as quickly as possible to remove those who have climbed the building in the safest way. Working from height is incredibly complex and can be dangerous. With height, comes risk. We have specialist teams who train for these scenarios, but we must allow those officers to make a number of detailed assessments before they attempt to remove activists. Our primary concern is the safety of everyone involved, our officers and those protesting. If there was a fall this could result in serious injury. Despite some comments, we cannot haphazardly rush in and pull people down. This puts our officers at risk and those at height. The claims that officers at the scene ‘just stand watching’ is not a fair reflection of events. The risks involved mean we must take careful precautions which will allow the safe removal of those at height. We know and appreciate this takes time, but this is necessary. Our assessment at Marsham Street continues. Our specialist units are on scene and it is important we give them the time to make assessments and develop a safe plan. We will share further updates in due course.’
‘The only way the police will be able to move us is by bringing in a hoist and taking us down. We fully expect to be arrested.’ James, from London, said all four of the activists were experienced rock climbers familiar with the safety equipment needed to secure themselves to the building. Speaking from his mobile phone, he added: ‘It was quite strenuous and took two hours to get up here and secure the banner. We have taken all the necessary safety precautions and as well as the hammocks we have food provisions and sanitary means in place. We will stay here as long as it takes, and if that means days or weeks so be it. We are in a climate emergency and we have to take action now.’
Asked why he was being a public nuisance, James also told GB News today: ‘We’re not being a public nuisance, the UK Government are being a public nuisance by spending £1.5billion of taxpayer money on subsidies on the meat and dairy industry.’ Asked how long he would stay up on the building, James added: ‘We’ve been waiting for a change on climate change in the UK for decades now, and it’s still not coming fast enough. We’re prepared to stay here. We’ve got some hammocks and we’re planning on getting comfortable until either our demands are met or we have a meaningful conversation with someone from Defra on how they’re going to transition their subsidies away from these destructive industries to something a bit more sustainable, a bit more fair – ultimately, our only solution going forward which is plant-based alternatives over meat and dairy. So, basically, we’ll see – as long as it takes, is the answer to that in short.’
Activist Claudia Penna Rojas said: ‘We are here in the lead-up to Cop26 demanding that the Government takes drastic action by transitioning to a plant-based food system as the science tells us we need to.’ She acknowledged that ‘not everyone will be willing to give up meat immediately’ but ‘what we are asking is for the Government to be responsible, to stop subsidising animal agriculture – dairy, meat – and begin subsidising more ethical, sustainable ways of farming’.
The large yellow sign read: ‘Cop: Invest in a plant-based future’, while another activist stood in front of the building holding a placard saying: ‘Defund meat’. They told a Sky News reporter at the scene: ‘Ahead of Cop26 we are calling for – no, demanding – that the world wake up and switch to a fully plant-based diet.’
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘Police were called at 6.09am following reports that a number of protesters had scaled a government building in Marsham Street.
Insulate Britain today urged drivers not to use the M25 as they threatened to bring chaos to the motorway once again tomorrow with a series of road blockades. The environmental campaigners also asked police to refuse to arrest them and warned their ‘non-violent civil resistance’ will restart on the road from 7am tomorrow. Insulate Britain added that if motorists do still choose to use the M25 tomorrow then their speed should be ‘reduced to 20 mph to minimise the risk of accidents’.
It comes after the London-based activists were effectively banned from all major roads in England yesterday following a landmark High Court ruling. The protesters have brought chaos to motorways and A roads over the last six weeks with hundreds of arrests made – but the Metropolitan Police has still charged no one. In their latest demonstration, the eco-zealots brought parts of London to a standstill once again yesterday – several of them glueing their hands, feet or faces to roads.
The activists defied calls from police and fire crews to climb down five hours into their protest.
Unlike the eco mob from Insulate Britain who have caused chaos on roads, the protestors caused little disruption with only the road outside the offices of the Home Office closed to traffic.
Surrounding roads by Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament were unaffected by the stunt.
Five fire engines were on standby in the road but no attempt was being made to coax the protestors down as they sat smiling on the outside metal structure of the building. Workers were prevented from going through the main doors of the building as they were taped off by a police cordon but were still able to access the office via other entrances. Half a dozen other Animal Rebellion protestors stood behind a police cordon. Cartons of almond milk could be seen among their provisions.
While Insulate Britain protestors were mostly retired, the Animal Rebellion activists were in their 20s and 30s.
Animal Rebellion spokesman Haley McDonald-Eckersall said the group wanted to Government to stop subsiding meat and dairy farmers and instead switch all production to plant based foods. She said the group recently held a march where 7,000 people turned up to show their support. Ms McDonald-Eckersall said: ‘We have to move forward with a more sustainable method of food production and we have to have it implemented now. This is all tied to the climate emergency and the Government has to sit up and listen.’The money that is spent on subsidising meat and dairy farmers should be spent on sustainable plant-based foods.’
As well as eradicating all meat and dairy cows the eco-group want to stop all fishing with the UK becoming a nation of vegetarians and vegans.
Ms McDonald-Eckersall said the group – which last staged a demonstration at a McDonald’s restaurant in Cornwall during the G7 conference – would continue with their stunts and said members would be heading to Glasgow for the Cop26 conference where world leaders will set out their aims for tackling climate change. She added: ‘We have to get our message across to the leaders at the Cop26 conference. There will be other actions like this one. We are all prepared to go to jail if need be.
Fire crews kept a close eye of the activists who had secured themselves to the building with rope and wore orange safety helmets. Passers-by were less than impressed with the demo which bean at 6.30am.
‘I would turn the fire hose on them to get them off,’ said an office worker who was picking up coffee from a nearby cafe. What right to they have to tell me what I can and cannot eat. Its all about personal choice, but like that lot who sit in the road they do not want that for people.’
An Animal Rebellion spokesman tweeted: ‘Animal Rebellion protestors have scaled Defra, demanding government support for a plant-based food system at Cop26. The protestors have said that they will take action until the government defunds meat and subsidises a plant-based transition. ‘Meat and dairy is one of the leading producers of greenhouse gases and causes 90 per cent of Amazon deforestation. World leaders at cannot talk about meeting the Paris climate targets and securing global net zero without addressing that our food system is destroying our planet.’
The spokesman added: ‘We’ll be posting updates as the day unfolds. Stay tuned… #COP26 #EnoughCopOuts #PlantBasedFuture.’
In response to the tweets, some social media users supported the group’s actions, saying ‘Yaaaaaaaaas!’ and ‘Go you guys! The activism that needs to happen.’ But one said: ‘I am going to eat meat for all three meals today, despite usually aiming to go meat free for at least two. This is purely because I find your methods completely odious.’ And another added: ‘I don’t want to eat a plant based alternative to meat. Who do these people think they are? It’s personal choice what people choose to eat.’ Others said: ‘Nice leather boots they are wearing’, and ‘Stand for election. Otherwise the public is entitled to laugh at you.’
It comes after Insulate Britain activists were effectively banned from all major roads in England yesterday following a landmark High Court ruling. The eco-zealots, also linked to XR, brought parts of London to a standstill once again yesterday – several of them superglueing their hands, feet or faces to roads.
Animal Rebellion, which was founded in July 2019, said it would continue to take action until the Government ‘defunds meat and subsidises a plant-based transition’ Animal Rebellion were also behind turning the Buckingham Palace fountains red in August.
Judges approved the application of an injunction against protesting on 4,300 miles of motorways and major A-roads, also known as the Strategic Road Network. Anyone breaking it faces unlimited fines or jail for contempt of court. Yesterday’s blockades – the first in ten days by the group – triggered more fury from Londoners.
Also yesterday, Boris Johnson admitted the Cop26 climate conference could end in failure as it emerged the world has not met a key funding deadline. The Prime Minister warned that it was ‘touch and go’ whether key goals would be met at the UN summit to tackle global warming. He admitted ‘we might not get the agreements we need’ due to major world leaders, including China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, not attending the summit.
Original source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk