A dozen people huddle around a digital advertising screen. There is a flurry of movement before the group moves on, leaving behind several posters hastily glued to the glowing display.
Despite the illegality of the fly-postering action, the group of Animal Rebellion activists could hardly been more conspicuous. At one point, an activist climbs on another’s shoulders to stick a poster on the sign of a Barclays bank branch in an effort to put it high out of the reach of any bank staff.
This cavalier attitude perhaps reflects a renewed confidence as Animal Rebellion, nationally and in Bristol, enjoys a resurgence.
Animal Rebellion began as an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion (XR), highlighting the ways animal agriculture drives the climate crisis.
However, ‘the climate space is so saturated at the moment.’ regional coordinator Michaela explains, and adds that the group wants to focus more on animal rights.
The aim, says Michaela, is to ‘try and get people in more of an emotional way and really get society to question [if this] is this how we want to be as a society.’
Wednesday’s fly-postering is part of a regular calendar of actions for the Bristol group. A week previously, members of the group blockaded the egg aisle of Clifton Down Sainsbury’s
Although a major theme of activism in the past, animal rights has somewhat fallen out of fashion. Part of the reason for this, explains Animal Rebellion activist Dan whilst scoping the next site for a poster, is the heavy crackdown on animal rights movements of the past.
Groups like the Earth Liberation Front, Animal Liberation Front and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty conducted a series of high profile actions against animal testing and farming infrastructure in the 1990s but were brought down by lengthy police operations, the arrest of leading members and the introduction of new legislation specifically protecting animal research facilities from protest.
The consequence of this targeted repression is that animal rights groups, fearing arrest, had to become ‘sneaky’, Dan says. This has the effect of keeping things on a small scale.
Animal Rebellion, mirroring the mass participation direct action style of XR, may be ‘the best shot we have at getting a plant-based food system,’ says Dan.
They certainly have their work cut out.
‘More and more people are going vegan but it’s not changing anything, the issues are still getting worse,’ complains Michaela.
Vegans and vegetarians now make up as much as 10% of the population in the UK, and average meat consumption in the UK fell by 17% over the 2010s.
However, meat and dairy remain a powerful industry, worth around £7.9bn every year. EU subsidies for meat and dairy add up to around £37bn per year, around what goes towards fruit and veg.
With growing momentum, Animal Rebellion hopes to change this.
At a national level the group has two demands for the government. Firstly, to support farmers and fishing communities to transition to a plant-based food system, and secondly to rewild the land and ocean areas freed by this transition as part of wider efforts towards wildlife restoration and decarbonisation.
With the new strategy combining both animal rights and climate arguments, the group hopes they will appeal to both the hearts and minds of the public.
Actions planned for later in the year, reportedly on a scale even larger than last September’s milk distribution blockades, will doubtless provide the media platform the group needs to spread their ideas further.
‘This is the key solution to the climate crisis,’ says Michaela, adding ‘and to creating a more loving world.’