Animal rights group blockades largest dairy factory in UK

31 August 2021, 10:06 | Updated: 31 August 2021, 12:58

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Animal Rebellion protesters have blockaded the largest dairy factory in the UK by locking themselves onto bamboo structures and concrete barricades.

Some 50 climate activists who support the animal rights group occupied the Aylesbury distribution centre of Arla Foods early on Tuesday morning.

They are calling on the multinational company to switch to plant-based production by 2025 and said they will not move until the firm commits to their demand and funds a transition for its workers.

Arla is one of the largest dairy manufacturers in the world and its factory where the protest is taking place provides roughly 10 per cent of the UK's milk supply - around 2.7 million litres a day.

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Climate activists have blockaded Arla Foods' Aylesbury distribution centre
Climate activists have blockaded Arla Foods' Aylesbury distribution centre. Picture: Animal Rebellion

James Ozden, a spokesperson for the group, said: "The recent IPCC report issued a code red warning on the impacts of the climate crisis. It spoke of a need for urgent action from our government to address carbon emissions, including methane which is in large part a byproduct of animal farming.

"Companies like Arla claim to be leading the way in tackling the climate crisis, yet until these big multinationals start to talk seriously about the inevitable need to transition our food system to one that is plant-based, their words are empty."

Animal Rebellion said it was targeting the planet's largest dairy corporations, including Arla, due to their significant contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.

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Police cars and officers have been pictured at the scene of the demonstration
Police cars and officers have been pictured at the scene of the demonstration. Picture: Animal Rebellion
Animal Rebellion is demanding Arla Foods goes plant-based by 2025
Animal Rebellion is demanding Arla Foods goes plant-based by 2025. Picture: Animal Rebellion

Some 13 of the world's biggest dairy firms contributed more greenhouse gas pollution in 2017 than mining and oil giants BHP and ConocoPhillips.

Mr Ozden added: "The dairy industry abuses animals, the planet and workers, who are increasingly squeezed by big business.

"Arla say they're pro-worker but lobby for supermarket contracts that sell milk for less than water.

"We're not just demanding that Arla go plant-based by 2025, we're demanding that the government supports companies like Arla by funding a just transition for workers in meat and dairy industries to just and sustainable alternatives.”

The Buckinghamshire protest is part of two weeks of direct action by climate activists that have so far shut down parts of central London and led to hundreds of arrests.

A spokeswoman for Arla Foods said: "As a cooperative owned by farmers we are committed to producing dairy for the UK in the most sustainable way possible.

"We already make raw milk with around half the average emissions of dairy globally and intend to be carbon net zero by 2050.

"We are working with the police to limit the impact of this demonstration to both our customers and those living locally to the site.

"We have managed to complete our morning shift change over and all colleagues are safe, however, access to the site for our larger vehicles is being blocked. We are working to manage the impact of this."

A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said officers were called to the site at 5:17am on Tuesday morning after receiving reports the dairy factory had been blockaded by protesters.

"A road closure has been put in place on the A41 to manage traffic and minimise disruption to the local community and businesses," the spokesperson added.

People are being advised to avoid the area and find alternate routes as the road closure may be in place for some time.

"Officers are on scene and are liaising with the landowner, and those who have gathered to protest, and will be working to return normality to the site as soon as possible," they said.

"The safety of everyone is a priority for the Force. Thames Valley Police strives to facilitate the rights of the public to protest and demonstrate peacefully, alongside the rights of others to conduct their lawful business.

"Where there is evidence of criminality or direct action to disrupt lawful activity we will look to remove and if necessary arrest anyone believed to be engaged in such activity."