Dr Zoe Davies is chief executive of the NPA
March 2 started like a normal Saturday for the Hook family, in Lincolnshire. But things rapidly took a turn for the worse. Here’s how events unfolded:
11am: Meat the Victims UK activists assemble in a field behind the Hooks’ farm for a pre-briefing – 200 activists have been split into two groups – those that will enter the building and those who will protest outside. It is organised with military precision.
11.50am: Activists enter the farrowing building quietly, leaving tulips outside the door and spread out. Staff are overrun and the activists quickly work their way through the building. Sows are clearly agitated and are standing up, barking.
11.55am: Sylvia Hook arrives and tries to reason with the vegans for about 20 minutes, to no avail.
12.15pm: An ‘Activism On The Road’ activist, who is live-streaming the whole event, states that they intend to stay in the building until national media arrive – and if police come before then, they will resist any attempts to be removed.
12.30pm: Activists are roaming over the farm, looking into buildings.
12.40pm: Police arrive at the buildings and ask to speak to the spokesperson. They successfully corral the activists into one farrowing house. Sylvia tells the activists they have caused piglet deaths, although the activists deny any wrong-doing, despite being aware that sows are crushing piglets (they have to remove one themselves).
1.40pm: The Hooks ring the NPA because the police don’t appear able to do anything to remove them. NPA liaises with them and the police to see what more can be done, reminding police about the health and welfare implications, the threat of disease, the health and safety risk of the people in the building and the fact that convicted criminals are present. However, every time the police try to negotiate, the activists turn their backs and say ‘no comment’. Activists secure Lincolnshire Live but no national media, much to their despair.
3pm: Activists are told that they are stopping sows from being fed, but say that, as sows are used to long transport distances without being fed, this is not an issue. They say they are willing to move but not to leave the building.
5pm: Police tell the activists they have two minutes to decide what to do or they will start to arrest them. They remove dead piglets for evidence. Activists know the police won’t be able to arrest them all in one go. They know that one of the group is going on BBC TV in an hour, so are happy with this outcome.
5.30pm: Activists are told by police that the pigs are suffering because they have had no feed or water, and that if they leave quietly, the police will let them go with no repercussions. If they do not leave, they will be arrested for aggravated trespass. The leader asks if anyone wants to stay until they have negotiated a pig ‘liberation’, but most present elect to leave. They try again to liberate what they call injured and sick piglets, but eventually give in and leave empty-handed.
6pm: The building finally clears of activists and the sows can be fed and left in peace.