FIVE people were arrested after animal rights activists staged a rooftop protest at Darlington Farmers Auction Mart on Saturday.
Members of the Animal Justice Project targeted the store as farmers from across the UK attended the National Beef Association (NBA) Expo 2022 held at the venue over the weekend.
Protesters gathered at the perimeter gates of the store and attendees were greeted by black-clad, masked activists holding placards bearing slogans such as “Termination violates animal rights” and “The end of animal husbandry is coming.”
The group wants to stop farming livestock for human consumption and advocates a vegan lifestyle, saying this is better for the environment and animals.
A spokesman for the group said 30 protesters from across the country took part in the demonstration, and seven climbed onto the roof of the store in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Auction sales staff were allowed to use “reasonable force” to remove protesters from the site but the roof activists were not forced down due to security concerns.
Protesters emitted flares throughout the day and video footage filmed by the Animal Justice Project shows a farmer driving toward activists outside the perimeter fence with a track.
The group claims they were attacked during the demonstration, with one roof protester needing hospital treatment for an apparently dislocated finger after she fell.
Durham police confirmed today (Sunday, May 29) that they were investigating allegations of attacks by protesters and that five activists had been arrested.
A police spokesman said: “Five protesters descended from the roof of the Farmers Mart around 5pm yesterday (Saturday, May 28) after talks with officers on the spot.
“All five individuals have been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.
“Officers are also conducting investigations following allegations of assault, however no arrests have yet been made in connection with the report.”
Mark Dent, president of the store, said he appreciated the right of people to protest, but he disagreed with those who caused “criminal harm and aggravated misconduct” by wearing masks.
He said, “Why should anyone listen to you when you don’t even have the courage to show your face?
“We are all here, very proud of our industry and of what we do for the food industry.
“We all have things we don’t agree with, but if you stick to what you believe in, have the decency to show your face.”
He added: “They’re not going to convert anyone here, so we’re sincerely laughing at them.”
Neil Shand, chief executive of the National Beef Association, said: “We understand that there are people in the country who do not want this industry, but it is a major leader of rural life and they will not change the mindset of people coming. the gates. ”
Suckle farmer and Expo attendee Bernard Trainer was among a group of farmers who traveled from Northern Ireland for the event.
He said it was a “wonderful” day, adding: “They (the protesters) seem to forget that there are farmers who have made this country as beautiful as it is and we are proud of what we do, morning, noon and night. . ”
A spokesman for the Animal Justice Project said the demonstration was “certainly a success” for the group.
He added: “We have received attention from the regional and national media, conveying our message to hundreds of thousands of people that there is no future for the agricultural industry and it is never good to farm animals.”
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