On 15th December 2022, three animal rights activists were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and causing a public nuisance after scaling the building of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in central London, UK. Their protest was aimed to draw attention to the bird flu crisis and factory farming that affects millions of animals in the country.
Two members of the Animal Justice Project climbed the outer wall before unfurling a banner calling for an end to animal agriculture due to its links to pandemics and the impact on the welfare of livestock.
Hope Wetherall, an Animal Justice Project campaigner said on the day of the protest: “Activists today are braving the elements and dizzying heights to highlight the inaction of our government on the urgent and catastrophic outbreak of bird flu that is tearing through intensive chicken sheds at lightning speed, as well as other animal agriculture-causing diseases. Modern agriculture causes both immense suffering and death to animals, and a very real risk to humans, yet we continue to see no real action taken by the politicians other than declaring avian influenza prevention zones and mass culling – actions that fail to target the source of the problem. It is imperative that government bodies such as DEFRA take preventative and meaningful action now.”
The activists’ direct action may have been seen as one of the last resources to deal with the problem of factory farming in the UK because the legal route found an obstacle difficult to overcome. In January 2022, a Judge in the High Court in London decided to stop the Judicial Review against the UK government on the issue of factory farming. This was the first time that a government had been legally challenged for allowing intensive farming to cause animal welfare, health, and environmental problems. However, the legal route is not exhausted. An appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to hold the UK Government accountable for failing to protect people from the life-threatening risks posed by factory farms was filed in July.