The Lowdown: Animal Rebellion

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

What impact is Animal Rebellion having on restaurants?

Related tags Animal Rebellion Animal welfare Activism Meat Gordon ramsay group Nusr-Et

The climate justice movement has given new meaning to the term eco warrior, staging ‘sit-down’ protests at a number of UK restaurants.

The Guardian​-reading, tofu-eating, wokerati are at it again...
That will be the view of many in the industry, yes. The climate justice movement has stepped up its operations against restaurants that serve meat and dairy products over the past month or so staging peaceful yet disruptive protests ​at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Salt Bae’s Nusr-Et in the capital as well as Manchester’s Mana and Catch At The Old Fish Market in Weymouth.

I get going after world-famous chefs like Gordon and Salt Bae. Why Mana and the Weymouth place?
Targeting a restaurant like Mana is a bit odd. While its menu does feature meat, head chef Simon Martin puts vegetables centre stage in a lot of his dishes. Any meat and dairy Mana does use is sourced from producers that care for the environment more than most. Animal Rebellion says Simon Martin’s Michelin-starred Ancoats restaurants was targeted because it does not cater for vegans and serves a menu that starts a £195 per person. “Whilst 2 million in the UK rely on food banks, high-end restaurants are catering to a wealthy minority,” its tweet about the Mana protest read.

Feels a bit like mission creep. What about the Catch At The Old Fish Market?
That one was a bit of a one-off it seems. A single locally-based protester targeted the restaurant because Sir David Attenborough was having dinner there that evening. She asked for a five-minute conversation with the environmentalist about the need to address climate change. Dorset Police said the local ecologist was arrested after allegedly causing a disturbance and refusing to comply with officers after they asked her to leave the restaurant. In a statement, Animal Rebellion said: “The Catch is a symbol of excess and inequality in today’s world, Weymouth has average wages amongst the lowest in the UK and is at huge risk of sea level rises. Yet this restaurant still continues business as usual amongst the worst cost of living crisis many will ever experience.”

What did the other protests involve?
The other three were all ‘sit-down’ protests, in which activists enter restaurants and seat themselves at tables and refuse to leave. At Ramsay’s flagship​, the half dozen or so Animal Rebelion protesters held mock menus outlining ‘the environmental and social cost’ of the food on Gordo’s menu, followed by the group’s core demands stylised as a starter, main, and dessert.

How have restaurants responded?
A spokesperson for Gordon Ramsay Group called the protest ‘incredibly inappropriate and deeply disrespectful’. “Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs,” she said. “However, to force your way into a restaurant, disturbing hard-working staff going about their jobs and ruining the evening of guests who have waited months for their reservations is incredibly inappropriate and deeply disrespectful.”

Is it just restaurants that are being targeted?
No. Animal Rebellion is looking to disrupt the whole of the meat and dairy supply chain. Recent activity includes blocking the movement of animal products around the country; pouring milk over stock at upmarket department stores; and - rather amusingly, it must be said - setting up tables and chairs in one of Trafalgar Square’s fountains and eating tofu and reading The Guardian newspaper.

What should restaurants that get targeted do?
Call the police. Depending on the circumstances the protesters may be committing a public order offence or criminal damage (if, for example, they glue themselves to the furniture). Kathryn Pitters, a regulatory lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, says management and staff should not try to physically remove the protesters as this could amount to the commission of an assault by them or it could lead to employees being injured.

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