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Activists scale Defra building in call for meat and dairy farm subsidies to end

Activists from Animal Rebellion unfurl a banner after scaling the outside of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in Westminster, central London, calling for the Government to invest in a plant-based future at the upcoming Cop26 conference in Glasgow. Pic by James Manning

By Ted Hennessey, PA

Environmental campaigners who have scaled a Government building in Westminster say they plan to stay there “indefinitely”.

Four activists from Animal Rebellion, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, used ladders, ropes and harnesses to climb the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) office as high as “20 metres” at around 6am on Tuesday.

The group, which also let off flares, says it is demanding an end to subsidies for meat and dairy farming in a protest against climate change.

They plans to stay in place until Boris Johnson pledges to urge all world leaders to also end such subsidies when they attend the Cop26 summit next week.

Police are at the scene with the fire service and are liaising with the protesters, although no arrests have been made.

Animal Rebellion spokesman Nathan McGovern told the PA news agency: “Our protesters climbed the building in the early hours of this morning to send a clear message that we want an end to support for animal agriculture which is killing our planet.

“The four, who are around 10 to 20 metres high, have unveiled a banner saying ‘Cop26: Invest in a plant-based future’.

“We will see what the situation with the police is, but the plan is to stay in place indefinitely and this will remain a peaceful protest.”

The Metropolitan Police said on Twitter: “Shortly after 6am we were alerted to a small group of protestors climbing the outside of a Government building in Marsham Street to access the roof.

“Officers are on scene with the London Fire Brigade and are engaging with the protestors. As yet, there have been no arrests.”

Activist Claudia Penna Rojas said: “We are here in the lead-up to Cop26 demanding that the Government takes drastic action by transitioning to a plant-based food system as the science tells us we need to.”

She acknowledged that “not everyone will be willing to give up meat immediately” but “what we are asking is for the Government to be responsible, to stop subsidising animal agriculture – dairy, meat – and begin subsidising more ethical, sustainable ways of farming”.

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