Fears over tactics used by vegan activists at abattoirs and restaurants

Dan Whitehead, Sky Reporter

The organisation representing the UK's meat industry says it is concerned it is "only a matter of time" before someone is hurt because of violent protests by animal rights groups.

The British Meat Processors Association has told Sky News there have been a number of instances of unlawful behaviour during co-ordinated protests which have included abusive and intimidating behaviour towards employees, contractors and hauliers as well as trespassing on private property.

Its comments relate to the SAVE organisation - an animal rights group which started in the US but now has more than 20 branches in the UK.

In November 2016 the East London Chicken SAVE group blocked a lorry carrying crates of chickens to an abattoir. The protest became heated with abuse shouted at workers. Police were called but no one was arrested.

On its website, SAVE says it is a "love-based non-violent group" and urges its members to refrain from any "loud or threatening behaviour".

The vast majority of SAVE vigils - which are held as animals are driven into abattoirs - are peaceful.

But the BMPA says it is concerned about the number of activists not adhering to the group's guidelines.

It said: "We respect the rights of the protesters to mount vigils and that they have strong views. In return we expect them to be peaceful and civilised in their approach to vigils at our members' sites.

"Our members do have concerns that it is only a matter of time before someone is hurt as a result of this behaviour and we continue to work closely with local police forces in order to ensure everyone's safety."

Kirsty Henderson from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) told Sky News the violent protests are rare.

"The SAVE movement is a mainstream movement made up of people around the world. They hold candlelit vigils outside slaughterhouses and give the animals who are destined to have their throats cut in just a few minutes their last semblance of life, some comfort. It is really a movement based on no violence."

Chrissy Dean is an animal rights activist from SAVE's Manchester group.

At a peaceful protest, she told Sky News why she attends the vigils moments before the animals are killed.

"I just love animals and I just think that everything that is living has a right to live. Those pigs don't want to die. I've seen them just run around fields and be free. I'm a mother and they are babies. They just don't deserve to be treated in the way they are treated."

The meat industry says it will continue to work with police to ensure the safety of those it represents.

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