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New type of welfarist protest: Occupying pig houses

In what appears to be the next step in animal rights activism, a group of over 100 animal welfarists entered a sow breeding farm in the Netherlands and kept the facility occupied for over 10 hours.

Just after noon on Monday, May 13, a group of about 200 animal welfarists trespassed on a farm near Boxtel, the Netherlands, and over a 100 of them forced entrance into the pig houses. The protest action, called ‘Meat the victims’, consisted of animal rights activists from allegedly 26 countries. The participants yelled “There is no excuse for animal abuse” and wore shirts stating “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” – a phrase from Martin Luther King.

In total over 200 animal welfarists protested at a farm near Boxtel, the Netherlands on May 13. Photo: Bert Jansen
In total over 200 animal welfarists protested at a farm near Boxtel, the Netherlands on May 13. Photo: Bert Jansen

While sharing pictures and footage from inside the pig houses, the group demanded 2 things – that media would come inside the farm themselves to report on what the group considers abuse; and that they could take home the unhealthy animals for further treatment.

A snapshot shared by the protesters from inside the pig farm. Photo: Meat the Victims
A snapshot shared by the protesters from inside the pig farm. Photo: Meat the Victims

Without meeting these demands, the local authorities ended the occupation late in the evening. All protesters voluntarily leaving the premises and who could identify themselves were free to go. Nevertheless, the police arrested 76 activists.

New step in animal rights activism

The animal rights move appears to be a new step in animal rights activism. Until so far, welfarist action concentrated around regular media appearances like radio, television and social media, asking attention for pigs in ‘factory farms’. In addition, occasional break-ins have been happening from time to time to make videos and expose these online.

Outside the pig farm, another group of protesters used megaphones and played songs on their guitars. Photo: Bert Jansen
Outside the pig farm, another group of protesters used megaphones and played songs on their guitars. Photo: Bert Jansen

‘Meat the Victims’ has been active in various places and farms prior to this action in the Netherlands. Earlier farms that were the victim of a similar type of visit were located in the Spain, the UK, Australia and Canada – the first one being in 2018.

Negotiation with animal rights protesters

Dutch police were on-site for most of the day, first trying to negotiate with the protesters to end their action peacefully. Later during the day, over 200 predominantly local farmers also showed up at the farm, some with tractors, to organise a counter-demonstration and show support for the farm owner and his family. The atmosphere turned rather grim, cars of protesters were thrown upside down and riot police appeared to keep both groups apart.

Unhappy about the welfarist protest, the cars of the activists were thrown upside down. Photo: Bert Jansen
Unhappy about the welfarist protest, the cars of the activists were thrown upside down. Photo: Bert Jansen

On social media, there was mostly disapproval for the action, with many people pointing to trespassing even when they sympathised with animal rights movement. Other animal welfare organisations in the Netherlands, including e.g. Dierenbescherming and Wakker Dier, openly stated to disapprove of the protest and so did Carola Schouten, the Netherlands’ minister for Agriculture, Nature & Food Quality.

In a tweet, she said, “In the Netherlands it is allowed and possible for everyone to give his/her opinion, but it is unacceptable to occupy a pig farm when you don’t agree with something.”

Effects on the pigs

The activists having sat amongst the pigs, sows and piglets will undoubtedly have led to stress with the animals. More seriously, however, is that the action raises questions with regard to biosecurity, as it cannot be checked whether or not the protesters brought in any diseases or whether there has been a breach of the biosecurity protocol due to the action. African Swine Fever is amongst wild boar in Belgium, just south of the Netherlands.

As a result, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) is currently investigating whether or not the pigs on-farm will have to be culled.

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