Grief and anger on `runway to hell'

Friends of the dead protester came back from the inquest to find veal f lights had resumed. Steve Boggan reports
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The Independent Online
He cut a forlorn figure in his khakis and pink beads, holding a dog-eared placard that read "Stop Live Exports and the road to hell". "I'm the last member of the Phipps family at liberty," he said.

This was Zab Phipps, 45, brother of Jill Phipps, the 31-year-old animal rights campaigner who was crushed under the wheels of a lorry carrying calves to Coventry airport, Baginton, on Wednesday night. He had just heard that his father Robert, 70, and hissister Lesley had been arrested at the airport yesterday, less than an hour after an inquest had been opened into Jill's death.

Zab, like the other 100 or so protesters outside the wind-swept airfield, was astonished that Phoenix Aviation had resumed its exports of live calves on the day the inquest opened at Coventry magistrates' court.

Words such as "insensitive" and "crass" were common currency among the protesters. "We had just got back from the inquest and we were trying to eat some lunch when we heard that a lorry load of calves had been taken to the airport,'' Zab said. "To tell you the truth, I was a bit shocked but not really all that surprised. This business is about greed and money. It would have been naive to think they would have stopped it long enough for us to bury Jill."

In their grief and anger, Robert and Lesley Phipps drove to the airfield and joined about 20 other protesters in running on to the runway to try to stop Phoenix's Russian aircraft with its cargo of 98 calves from taking off. A total of 45 people were arrested during a day of protest.

Later, shortly after 4pm when another consignment of animals arrived, it was the turn of Justin Timson 26, Jill Phipps's partner, to clash with police. He ran towards two Phoenix aircraft to try to chain himself to one. Police last night confirmed that one of the protesters had chained himself to the front wheels of the aircraft but had been immediately cut free and arrested. The gesture was appreciated by demonstrators. "We have to do everything we can to make sure Jill did not die in vain," said Sondra Halliday, 53, a teacher, who was holding a placard saying: "Meat Eating Grandmas for Compassion for all Things". "I've never been into anything like this before but I'm angry now and I'm sticking this out until they stop the flights," Mrs Halliday said. It was a feeling shared by many. Like many anti-road campaigns, the animal liberation movement is being infiltrated by grandmothers, by the middle-aged and by professional types.

Steadfast vegans are there, but so, too, are people such as Mrs Halliday. They were subdued yesterday, surrounded by bouquets and wreaths in memory of Jill Phipps. Motorists sounded their horns as they went past or stopped to leave more flowers against the airfield's perimeter fence now transformed from green to purple by thousands of ribbons, the symbol of the movement.

One farmer, Christine Shelton of Northampton, stopped to tell the protesters she was buying 50 calves from the farm used by Christopher Barrett-Jolley, Phoenix's owner, so they would not be flown to a life in Dutch veal crates. "They'll be reared well for at least two years on my farm," she said.