Thursday, 18 Apr 2024

I joined an eco-mob and their contempt for ordinary people was extraordinary

Animal Rising – the fanatical band of vegans intent on running riot during the Epsom Derby – is a group full of exactly the sort of people you’d expect; sandal-wearing middle-class semi-pro activists desperate for a banner to stand behind, with contempt for ordinary people who don’t share their radical worldview.

In April, I infiltrated the group of eco-warriors after attending ‘The Big One’ in London – a climate convention led by Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, and Animal Rising, amongst others.

A fake name, email address and a vague ability to parrot the vegan fanatics’ mantra of “repairing humans’ broken relationship with the animal kingdom”, and I was in. No ID check, no vetting, no questions asked.

Perhaps when you’re so convinced of the moral purity of your group, it’s difficult to imagine that anyone would seek to expose it for what it really is.

After receiving several messages from the ringleaders on the encrypted app Signal, about their upcoming plans to disrupt the Epsom Derby, I was invited down to a “nonviolent training session” to prepare new members for the demonstration ahead.

Curiously, the session’s location was the same office-cum-commune that Just Stop Oil used to brief its wannabe activists in east London.

The session was run by a moustachioed “drag artist”, Beau King Houston, who wore sparkly faux leather tracksuit bottoms. His insistence that Animal Rising “don’t encourage arrest” belied his smile and his eagerness to tell the room that he had “been arrested eight times”, including for “burglary”.

During a role play in which recruits were practising blocking a supermarket aisle, the self-proclaimed “diversity role model” proceeded to attempt a mocking impression of an ordinary mum trying to get her shopping, to giggles from the rest of the room. The disdain for the general public was palpable.

One by one, King Houston encouraged new members to outline their own credentials, prompting each wide-eyed activist to try to prove that they too were authentic rebels for the cause.

Jenny, a long-haired Extinction Rebellion veteran wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘The Future Is Vegan’, revelled in telling her fellow eco-zealots how “incredible” she found the experience of disrupting London’s Billingsgate and Smithfield markets – home to the capital’s traditional blue-collar fish and meat vendors.

During her introduction, the mid-60s videographer revealed she “talked to chickens” for her “mental health”, to nods and smiles from the room of activists.

Other recruits at the session included Lily, a wannabe actress and barmaid, who had moved to the UK from “big farming territory” in the Canadian province of Alberta.

She remarked at how “easy” it was to adopt a plant-only diet in London, however later bemoaned how “expensive” cannabis was in the UK, compared to what she was used to at home.

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Kylie, a mid-40s “dog healer” from Essex told the room of her night in the cells after being detained by police on Coronation Day, bragging that “being arrested is not that bad” and that it’s all part of “the business that we’re in”.

After a month-long investigation, it’s clear Animal Rising’s members are acutely aware of every supposed social injustice under the sun.

Ironically, however, they remain blissfully unaware of how out of touch they are with the ordinary Brits they hold such a dim view of, and whom they’ll need to win over if they have any hope of realising their ambitions.

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