Colin Brazier: Animal Rebellion are not winning the argument with consumers
'Animal Rebellion thinks a meal from McDonald’s is the devil’s own work'
Personally, they make me feel slightly ill but the British public love Big Macs with a devotion once reserved for religious relics.
Last summer when our government eased lockdown restrictions, you could practically see the drive-thru queues from space.
Some people waited for up to two hours, so desperate were they for a Quarter-pounder, McFlurry or fries.
But one man or woman’s meat is another’s murder. Animal Rebellion thinks a meal from McDonald’s is the devil’s own work. They want the company to offer an exclusively plant-based menu by 2025.
But, if you’re a protester, how do you make that happen? Do you target supply or demand? The people buying the food, or those making it?
What form does direct action best take? Do you directly approach those dedicated customers in their local high street Maccy D’s. Politely ask them to forfeit their fillet-o-fish on a Friday evening?
Patiently explain how, every time they take a bite of their cherished cheeseburger – a little bit of the rainforest dies.
Well, Animal Rebellion know how that can end. They know because they saw what happened when their sister organisation, Extinction Rebellion, tried to stop early morning commuters, many of them construction workers, at Canning Town two years ago.
Perhaps you remember the pictures. Activists who’d climbed on top of a train carriage to stop it leaving.
The hands that reached up to pull them to the ground, and – in some cases – punch them on landing – didn’t have a corporate image to protect, but they did have a train to catch.
And this is why, if you’re Animal Rebellion, it probably makes more sense to avoid the angry customer and target the faceless producer.
You secure publicity for your cause, without the bruises to your body.
What’s the worse thing that can happen if you’re one of the 100 Animal Rebellion protesters who’ve been occupying a site in Scunthorpe, where 3 million burgers are made a day for McDonalds, since the early hours of yesterday morning.
You can be arrested, of course. 14 were in May when Animal Rebellion blockaded the entrances to McDonald’s distribution sites in Manchester, Coventry, Basingstoke and Hemel Hempstead.
That led to shortages of burgers, lots of publicity, but no danger of having to explain to an angry Mum why she couldn’t feed her family-of-four for under twenty quid.
Maybe if Animal Rebellion tried to confront customers in restaurants, rather than filming themselves being confronted politely by security guards on industrial estates, they’d get somewhere.
Because, however much they huff and puff, they are not winning the argument with consumers. If they were, McDonald’s wouldn’t just have announced it was recruiting 20,000 new workers in Britain and Ireland, and opening 50 new restaurants.
That’s tonight’s Viewpoint.