Our counter-terrorism experts shouldn't be wasting their time on the 'Save' animal welfare protest movement

The meat industry is vulnerable when consumers look directly at the faces of the animals that are condemned to short, torturous lives and ferocious deaths – they learn the reality of how the industry truly operates

Chas Newkey-Burden
Tuesday 14 February 2017 12:40 GMT
The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers has met with counter terrorism police to discuss animal rights activism
The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers has met with counter terrorism police to discuss animal rights activism (AP)

It’s a David and Goliath story that should warm any heart: a small band of peaceful vegans are keeping slaughter-industry bosses awake at night. The Save movement holds vigils outside abattoirs, to show love and compassion to pigs, cows and chickens in their final moments and to raise awareness of the cruelty we inflict upon them.

The movement hit the headlines when Anita Krajnc, a supporter in Canada, was put on trial. Her crime? Offering water to thirsty, traumatised pigs as they were transported for slaughter.

The movement arrived in Britain 12 months ago, holding vigils at abattoirs from Cornwall to Scotland. Although I’m a vegan, I’m not a member of the movement, but I’ve watched with huge admiration as Save has shone a light in the darkest of corners.

Feelings have occasionally boiled over as these big-hearted animal lovers witness first hand the barbarity of the meat industry, but the movement remains committed to its principle of “love-based, non-violent” protest. So why is this small, compassionate and kooky group considered such a threat to the meat industry?

The National Pig Association claims its members “cannot sleep at night” because of the actions of Save. And now a leaked memo shows that the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers has met with the official National Counter Terrorism Police Operations Centre team to discuss how to respond to vigils.

The leaked memo from the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers
The leaked memo from the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers

To regard Save vigils as terrorism is genuinely absurd: a panicked, guilty response from the planet’s most brutal industry. Our counter-terrorism experts should be concentrating their efforts on genuine threats against British public safety, not a bunch of vegan campaigners who only wish to expose the reality of a commercial sector that the majority of its consumers remain in the dark about.

But although Save protestors are not terrorists, perhaps abattoir bosses have good reason to fear their work.

The meat industry is vulnerable when consumers learn the reality of how it operates; when they look directly at the faces of the animals it condemns to short, torturous lives and ferocious deaths. Protestors share videos from the vigils on social media, offering that connection to the general public. This makes an industry that has poured so much money, time and desperation into keeping consumers’ eyes shut feeling nervous.

According to latest estimates, 542,000 Brits are now vegans, up from 150,000 in 2006 – a 350 per cent increase in just over a decade. Official supermarket revenue statistics for 2016 showed the biggest losers were meat and dairy, while the biggest gains came for dairy-free products. Overall sales of plant-based products are up 1,500 per cent.

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Big food and hospitality brands, from Harvester and Wetherspoons to Pret A Manger and Sainsbury’s, are launching successful vegan ranges. Last month, Sainsbury’s reported that sales of its new own-brand vegan cheeses were 300 per cent greater than it had anticipated.

Activists are exposing the truth about the meat on your plate: that piglets who grow too slowly are killed by being slammed headfirst onto concrete floors, a standard industry practice called “thumping”; that in many chicken slaughterhouses workers routinely rip the heads off live birds; that pigs scream in gas chambers, or as they are boiled alive; that cattle sometimes experience having their legs sawn off while they are still conscious.

I’ve nothing but respect for Save as they rattle and expose those complicit in the meat industry. They are not terrorists.

It’s often said that we accuse others of what we secretly know we are doing ourselves. So as abattoir workers toss and turn at night, perhaps they might ask themselves, who is really doing the terrorising?

The Independent reached out to both the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers and the National Pig Association for comment but neither responded

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