A new piece of legislation, known as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, could see major changes to the crime and justice system in England and Wales, including tougher measures on the way protests are handled in future.
The Vegan Society is concerned some of the new law could jeopardise many of the actions which people take to try to end the use and abuse of animals.
If brought in police chiefs will be able to:
- Impose a start and finish time to protests
- Set noise limits at protests
- Issue fines of up of £2,500 to those who refuse to follow police instructions on how to conduct a protest
- Apply these rules to demonstrations held by small groups or individuals
What does this mean for the vegan movement?
The Vegan Society and the vegan movement have from the very beginning existed to critique, challenge, and seek reform of the ‘current normal’ of our use of animals. For decades people have marched peacefully for animals, against specific forms of animal abuse, and in favour of transitioning to living peacefully alongside animals, such as the Brown Dog Affair of 1907. This protest work is for the benefit of the animals, ourselves and the planet.
The society is concerned that vegan activists or protestors who are found guilty even of ‘risking serious annoyance or inconvenience’ could be imprisoned for one to ten years, while those accused of damaging ‘statues or memorials’ could also be imprisoned for ten years: far longer than for violence against non-human animals.
Vegan protestors, a sizeable number of which live a nomadic vegan, could see their caravans, motorhomes and/or vehicles seized, and the occupants fined up to £2500 and/or imprisoned for up to three months. In turn this could lead to children from vegan families being taken into the UK care system, which still does not respect the legally protected philosophical beliefs of young vegan people.
In February 2020, led by vegan Hollywood actor Joaquin Phoenix, a group of Animal Equality activists gathered in London before dropping a 390-square foot banner from Tower Bridge.
However, if they were to repeat this again in future, individual activists, no matter how peaceful the protest, could be slapped with heavy fines, arrested, or imprisoned if officers decide they’ve committed the offence of "intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance.”
Louise Davies, interim CEO of The Vegan Society says, “Peaceful protest is a fundamental human right and critical part of democracy. This Bill sets out to redefine 'intimidation', ‘harassment', ‘alarm’ and ‘distress’ so broadly, and give police such excessive powers, that peaceful protest could become unacceptably restricted.”
“People have the right to publicly, collectively express their objections against the policies and practices of governments, organisations and wider society that allow the use and abuse of animals.”
We are now in pandemic, climate and animal emergencies. The widespread artificial breeding of animals in our world, forcing animals into close proximity with us, makes pandemics and climate disaster more likely. Our right to peacefully protest against these harms remains vital.
The Bill was passed to the Committee Stage by 359 votes to 263. The Committee Stage, during which Bills are looked at in great detail has reportedly been delayed and is not expected back in Parliament until 24th June.