'A chicken told us it was very cosy amidst the wintry Liverpool hail inside his chicken cossy.'
FOWL PLAY TRIUMPHS IN DOCKSIDE STUNT
Greenpeace Operation Springs A Surprise On Soya Bean Importers As Lifesize rhode Island Reds' Mix It With Disgruntled Guards - By John Vidal, The Guardian (London) 21 November 2000
Chickens about to be slaughtered go very silent, hold their wings to their breasts and huddle together with large sad eyes. We know this because, at 7.35am yesterday, a delivery of 60 of Britain's finest naturally-reared arrived at Liverpool docks in the back of several large rented vans, courtesy of well-known global poulterers Greenpeace.
Waving tickets for the Ireland ferry, the vans sped through the perimeter wall of the docks with ease. Half a mile further they reached the gates of Cargill's, Britain's largest importer of GM soya beans, which are fed mainly to animals. The first two vans passed four sleepy guards, saying only that they had a delivery'.
The third stopped on the corporate weighbridge and immobilised its air brakes blocking the route into the factory yard. On a co-ordinated squawk the rear doors of the vans were flung open and the chickens rushed out into the vile-smelling, steam-shrouded works.
Flapping their little felt wings, tripping over their giant talons and clucking like a coach load of VIPs at the dome, the liberated flock danced their way in as Tannoys blared out from the vans the sound of an industrial poultry shed.
Cargill's, which also happens to be the world's largest grain and food trader, turning over pounds 40bn a year, was metaphorically stuffed. 'Tossers,' yelled one of the guards flapping his own arms in sympathy with 30 chickens who flew past him.
Fair and foul - It probably helped that at this very moment, a mighty hail storm broke - summoned, it is thought, by John Prescott and environmentalists at the Hague global warming talks. What until then had been 60 passable Rhode Island reds and four cocky-looking guards became in one minute sodden, floppy-combed, wilting beaked fowl and even fouler-mouthed security men. Dry chaos, in short, became miserable farce. Shit, shit, shit,' yelled a guard, cursing the weather as much as the chickens. Stop, stop. This is private land. Leave at once. Now!'
'Chicken tonight,' taunted a funky giant rooster leading a dash for one of the many 80ft high silos where the GM soya is stored before being crushed into oil and distributed to animal seed companies aroundBritain. Within 10 minutes eight well-seasoned climbers had locked themselves to a conveyer belt 60ft above ground, intending to roost at least two nights.
Meanwhile, eight more poultry were getting broody up on the silos, while the rest of the flock was being shooed off lorries and out of buildings by whoever Cargill's could persuade to brave the storm. A giant alsatian barely restrained by a guard nipped the wing of one chicken; but most were led away as first the dock police, then customs and excise, and finally Liverpool's finest arrived on the scene.
Outside the perimeter fence 10 chickens who had been prevented from entering performed for the benefit of arriving Cargill's drivers and workers. Opinions were divided on the quality of the matinee theatre. I haven't laughed so much on a Monday morning in years,' said one. 'Chicken shit,' said another.
A third declared his undying respect for Greenpeace and hatred for the company where he had worked for years: Good on them. It's about time someone took these bastards on. They think> they can get away with anything.' He then whispered loudly that Greenpeace should try another Cargill depot. They're canny. They keep the GM well clear of this place.' He drew a map suggesting the best way in.
Greenpeace was positively clucking at its success following its recent acquittal for partly destroying a GM maize field last year. The 60 chickens were cock-a-hoop too. They included a vicar, teachers, an athletic coach, an accountant, and a sewing machinist.
Having largely persuaded the super markets and food processors to ban GM soya in human foodstuff, the Cargill's attack opened up a whole new front for the anti-GM protesters. Few people know that almost every chicken and pig sold in Britain in the past three years has been fed on GM food. It is still massively in the food chain,' said a Greenpeace spokesman yesterday. A recent poll, he said, suggested that 57% of people did not want animals to be fed GM food, and 90% said they wanted full labelling on all meat rearedusing GM food.
No one knew the exact quantities of GM animal foodstuff imported into Britain. A 1999 agriculture minister report suggested that a substantial proportion of the 2m tons of soya, 1.1m tons of maize and 0.5m tons of distillers' grains used in animal feed (in Britain) could contain material derived from GM varieties".
Segregation - In April the then farms minister, Jeff Rooker, told a select committee: You have to assume that anything imported from America will probably be mixed up with GM organisms.'
A spokeswoman for Cargill's was at a loss yesterday to understand why
Greenpeace kept targeting the firm. Earlier this year the group occupied
a GM soya boat, and last week it projected nasty' videos on one of the
firm's sheds. But we do segregate GM and non-GM soya. We are very
responsible. We only respond to what our customers want. If they specify GM soya, we will provide it. If they want non-GM, we will get it for them, too.'
She said that more companies were specifying non-GM animal feed, even at a higher price. But we don't want to sit down to talk about it with Greenpeace. They don't seem to like us for some peculiar reason. We even work with children to educate them about the environment.'
Last week both McDonald's and Burger King said they would no longer sell meat from animals fed GM foods, following Sainsbury's, Iceland, Marks and Spencer, Nestle, Unilever and others. Anti-GM campaigners said there was still uncertainty as to whether commitments applied to all foods and ingredients.
Last night police said eight people had been arrested, and Greenpeace
said four people remained chained up on the silos. We'll continue to harass
Cargill's until it ends these GM food imports and stops contaminating our
food chain,' clucked their spokesman.
[Entered November 21, 2000]
Special report on the GM debate at www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/gm