Increased environmental consciousness and concerns with pollution caused by industrial agriculture has become more widespread in recent years, movements opposing animal agriculture have used this increased awareness to attempt to further their campaigns by targeting farms and farmers directly. While increased awareness around the challenges facing society as a result of climate change is a welcome development, the emergence of ‘animal rights’ groups who directly target farmers is a worrying development.
Last month a group called the save movement organised a protest outside a Rosderra Irish meats in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. This event was advertised as part of the ‘Wake uprising’ a 15 day programme of events and protests in Ireland. The ‘stop the trucks’ protest in Roscrea consisted of protestors attempting to physically prevent trucks from bringing animals to the factory.
The save movement in Ireland, and the linked group Anonymous for the Voiceless, who organise similar protests are part of a bigger European and global network focused on protesting animal agriculture. Tactics used by other animal rights groups protesting animal agriculture involve farm invasions where activists forcibly enter farms and target stores selling meat.
Another group of activists broke into a pig farm in Westmeath last week, the aim of this protest organised by a group called ‘meat the victims’, the aim of this action is not to protests specific examples of animal cruelty but to promote veganism by pushing a narritive that animal agriculture is inherently cruel. In order to do this these groups will often use footage of sick or injured animals and try to present this as the norm rather than the exception. It is believed that some of the protesters traveled from other European countries for the event.
These recent protests may be the first of their kind in Ireland but they are an increasingly common occurrence in other countries and the Irish protests have been organised by vegan activist groups which are part of a growing international network who seek to capitalise on genuine concerns about sustainability and animal welfare by presenting all animal agriculture as cruel and environmentally unsustainable.
In both situations questions have to be asked regarding the actions of the protestors as they deliberately put unnecessary stress on animals and intimidated farm and factory workers. While these groups have the right to protest their actions outside factories and on farms create a health risk for both humans and animals.
Farmers, truck drivers, and workers in factories processing animal products deserve to go about their work day without fear of harassment from protestors, and animals deserve to not be subjected to extra stress due to delays or forced stoppage by protestors or by having people crowd around the trailers with phones and cameras. Strong animal welfare laws exist and are enforced, while vegans may believe no one should be eating animal products, this does not give them the right to harass people going about their days work.
For those of us who care about ensuring that farming is sustainable these protests serve no purpose as they seek to create an artificial divide between farmers and animal welfare groups, this ignores the need for effective animal welfare and sustainable production to be based on a process where farmers are seen as part of the solution not just part of the problem.