Hands off Smithfield Market!

Extinction Rebellion’s occupation of London’s famous meat market is pure middle-class elitism.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill

Topics Politics UK

‘Privileged’ is an overused word these days. White privilege, male privilege, cis privilege, yada yada. But if you want to see real privilege, look no further than the smug, whiffy occupation of Smithfield meat market in London by middle-class vegans from the Extinction Rebellion cult. This is privilege in action. This is time-rich, well-connected green activists sneering at working people and preventing them from doing their jobs. It sums up the elitism inherent in environmentalism.

Smithfield has been trading in meat for 800 years. It has long attracted the ire of middle-class moaners. In the Victoria era, posh people frequently complained about the Smithfield traders’ treatment of animals and, even worse, their use of foul language. ‘Of all the horrid abominations with which London has been cursed, there is not one that can come up to that disgusting place… Smithfield Market’, said one snotty observer. The ‘cruelty, filth, impiety, horrid language’ and all in ‘the very heart of the most Christian and most polished city in the world’ – Smithfield and its traders horrified the great and good.

And clearly they still do. Today’s equivalent of Victorian moralists – the eco-puritans of the green movement – have descended on the ‘horrid abomination’ that is Smithfield Market and effectively shut it down. Calling themselves Animal Rebellion (God help us), they’re part of Extinction Rebellion. They have replaced the ‘cruelty’ and ‘filth’ of Smithfield’s meat stalls with their own locally sourced vegetable stalls. In the eyes of these vegan extremists, these food moralists, meat is evil and veg is great. So cast out the nasty meat traders and replace them with well-brought-up, socially aware people who not only eat plums but also speak in plummy accents.

This posh invasion of Smithfield is causing serious problems for the many working-class men – they are mostly men – who work there. Some of these men’s families have worked there for generations. They make a good, honest living selling quality meat to Londoners. The Bone Man of Smithfield – that is, the man whose job is to clear out the bones each day – has said the XR occupation of his workplace is ‘disgraceful’. ‘Why are they coming to demonstrate against us, possibly putting us out of work?’, he said to LBC. Because of this ‘happy-clappy mob… I’m not going to be able to pay my bills’, he added.

His son works in Smithfield, too. His father once worked there. Smithfield is full of families like this who have a long history of serving this part of London. Who do XR think they are blocking these people’s trade and publicly shaming them for what they do? As the Bone Man put it, these protesters just ‘want to go backwards’.

That’s exactly right. These are anti-modernity, anti-progress middle-class moralists who look with contempt upon working people who eat meat, drive cars, have more than one child, and fly off on holiday once or twice a year. Their occupation of Smithfield Market sums up the class dynamic that has always been a key part of green activism. Snooty, self-satisfied activists from the leafy parts of London trekking to Smithfield to mock working people and prevent them from making a living – this is a tiny snapshot of the kind of world XR wants to create.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Marvin Jones

13th October 2019 at 1:21 pm

What a perfect week for the market to hold a mass barbecue. All those delicious smells getting up the noses of these sub human freaks.

Martin Bishop

10th October 2019 at 4:33 pm

Do working class vegetarians or vegans not exist? Is it like a kind of instant class promotion? Start off working class, decide to turn veggie and you stop being working class, you just become financially challenged middle class. Apparently working class are incapable of being inconsiderate self righteous a-holes towards other working class.

Jerry Owen

9th October 2019 at 1:20 pm

Partly in response to A Game, animals are farmed on land that is not god enough to grow decent crops for humans. As I have said before look at the fields sheep are so often put in .. hilly ones that cannot be easily farmed and grow poor yield vegetation.
So XR want to make us vegetarian , and cut down on CO2. Less CO2 equals less plant life.
Joined up thinking isn’t their strong point.
The more I look at their propaganda logo the more I see a swastika, imagine UKIP or the BP with that logo, the media would have a field day.
These are modern day fascists in the making, with the full support of the state.
The more I watch this unfolding the more I can believe that these are the political descendants of the Hitler movement, the anti Semitism of the labour party seals that sentiment for me. Oh, and Hitler was a vegan .. ‘these people are literally Hitler’ to coin a phrase I heard somewhere !

Asif Qadir

9th October 2019 at 3:45 pm

My plan is to torment you.

A Game

11th October 2019 at 6:05 pm

J Owen:
You are exactly right. This idea that a row of beans can be planted on every crevice or something… then the wet season hits, your crops have copped it… everyone may now starve. With dignity, of course. (I think people, when starving, historically, have resorted to eating shoe leather. Of course, that option won’t exist…)
I’m particularly a fan of cattle because they are free range, and get to 2 years old before going to the abattoir. I can live with that. Sheep are apparently a bit more “eco” friendly, according to the nutters… they eat less or create less methane or something. But they are treated very poorly, overall in the transport stakes, and of course, the fashion for hogget and mutton has gone. Shutting down of local abattoirs means, especially countries like Australia, they have long trips in trucks… you see pregnant sheep sometimes at the side… horribly cruel business. (Pregnant sheep in live export, too… what are these people thinking?)
And its in eating meat that you can demand changes. For the environment… our animal friends are actually our best friends. Not sure what the pet carnivores are supposed to eat in this nirvana of veganism… you do wonder.
Yes… very swastika-ish. Geometric, harsh, ugly, in a circle.
See, this is why they have desensitised the word “fascist” and “Nazi”. So when they revealed themselves as the true versions… when we start yelling it at them… it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Excellent tactic.
A local tv personality said those chaining and superglueing themselves should be left where they are. The brilliance of her wisdom. They have arrested themselves. They aren’t going anywhere. Let ’em stay. (Of course, she created OUTRAGE when she made the joke that left where they are, they can then be speed bumps. OUTRAGEOUS. Of course, they’re outraged in case anyone was issuing them the challenge of truly taking one for the cause.)
Qld Labour party Government is swinging into action. They are pushing through laws to go after them. Yay. They get some things right behind the banana curtain.
But see how we have to ditch our civil liberties in order to not be a victim of terrorists?

A Game

9th October 2019 at 11:03 am

Its frustrating this ilk interfering with animal welfare. I’m very much a supporter of humane farming, free range only, humane slaughter. I eat meat. Most animal rights does have this attitude of the only support is rejecting meat. (Been there, done that, ended up anaemic – which means visions of a plant diet so limited. Young women don’t fare as well as men, and the quantities of produce you need to consume…) As a consumer, you have more power to change by dictating what is acceptable and what is not. Free range eggs are a classic example. By consuming eggs, people have a power to show where demand is/isn’t, and the industry is forced to change. Rejecting the entire system, on a planet that no other countries are agreeing with you, means not a single thing will change. Animal rights activists in Australia are doing this damage. Mindless attacks on farms that aren’t guilty of animals abuse are creating law changes that will protect the transgressors. (For some reason, pig farmers are the worst. It must attract lazy creeps or something… ) In other words, their actions are making it easier for farmers to dig in and maintain industrial farming practices or inhumane enclosures, etc.
This nonsense about meat/climate. Meat means you actually don’t need as much food. Cattle turn inedible products into food. And anyone who has shared a tight space with vegans… the methane a human produces on a plant based diet… ugh. (The diet this crowd are wanting to exist on for two weeks, might be their undoing. Glued to a bucket day and night. The fakers might struggle to leave for some meat/eggs/milk – imagine it, coming back to the tent in the middle of the night, everyone asking, “Where were you, who did you speak to, is that deep fryer fat I can smell?” Might be worth someone’s effort to monitor movement and food outlets through the night, lol.)
I’m sick of this ilk, in their immature, entitled fervour, wrecking true changes for the better.

I think the clock is on… every single penny lost, wages, sales, etc… lawsuits against XR, until every one of those pennies is redeemed. Who else is allowed to thwart someone else’s right to a living? No one.
(Interesting about historical disgust towards the markets. It was butchers who advocated for humane slaughter. That’s always overlooked. They didn’t like having to kill a suffering, protesting animal. Those tut-tutting… bet they bogged into a roast on Sundays, though… after their servants went to the market and bought it. Historical hypocrisy. And, as other comments have picked up nicely… Halal/Kosher slaughter. Violating laws and sensibilities everywhere. But allowed to. I notice it was in your news that the… whatever Minister – Tory woman – has rejected labelled packaging to advise whether Halal/Kosher meat. I’d keep it up at that one, if I were you lot. Who wants to eat the meat of a tortured animal? Who wants to eat the meat of an animal that isn’t up to the standard of UK laws? No different from live exports.)
I’m also convinced its time to negotiate. Literally, every pound spent having to cater to this shut down, policing costs, whatever… its every pound out of green policies. One less solar panel, two less, three less… another windfarm bites the dust, that they are literally protesting away current renewable energy policies. The subsidies for renewables… another day, another dollar gone… that might make the privateers perk up. I think most people would be fine with that… you want to destroy a city to party? Fine. This is what its gonna cost you. How much do you really care?

Secondly, those itching to do some sort of counter protest… lets see. Actors are having fun sticking their arts funded oars in. Shut down the West End. No theatre for you, tonight! Stop the actors getting in, stop the patrons getting in… and hold up XR signs in the doing. How dare people enjoy the trivialities of entertainment when the world is burning?

Secondly, I don’t think it would be a bad thing to have them sit down with some poor government hack, with lots and lots of media, cause, you know, we know they like that… and point blank, what should be done 1st, tomorrow. And then 2nd, 3rd. No rhetoric, not a peep of that crap… literally what’s 1st? Black out in London for 5 hours every night? No power to save some coal? (No sun, so only wind to power the entirety of London… definitely coal.) Sounds good. What next? Television broadcasts get zapped for 3 hours a day. All of that electricity being used. Sounds good to me.
Phone networks shut down for 8 hours overnight. Save on that recharge power.
I think it would be quite interesting to hear what will immediately address the climate emergency. Immediately. Right now. I’d take the above hits for the team. Happily. Comfortably. I have solar powered camping lamp with lots of oomph. I’ve got lots to read. I bet the plebs are better kitted out for tough living. You drink warm beer, what’s the problem?
And after they’ve listed it out, without a word of rhetoric or propaganda, just literal steps to begin tackling the emergency… then all the celebs and media sign their name to it. Whats her face Stevenson, Ruby Wax… whomever else has been short of an audience for a while.

Neil John

14th October 2019 at 10:50 am

“For some reason, pig farmers are the worst.” Perhaps they’ve read about David Pickton and his method of disposing of problematic bodies.

Guy Fawkes

8th October 2019 at 8:58 pm

I think the time is rapidly coming when it will be time to take up arms. This isn’t quite yet civil war, but it’s close to tipping point. Wish I lived in London — I might start by demolishing a few XR tents.The sooner the revolution comes the better …

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