Reimagining food activism in the UK for food justice globally

4th Feb 21 by Mia Watanabe

Get involved in our workshops to critically examine the food on our plates and bring about a fairer food system.

How do we dismantle food corporation’s hold on the food system? How do we ensure that our actions meet the scale of the injustices perpetuated by industrial meat and dairy production?

These are questions that we grapple with daily at Feedback. As the outside world grows distant and disconnects us from those face-to-face moments for activism, it is increasingly important for those of us who are concerned about the climate, deforestation, and systemic racism in the food system to come together to hold food corporations to account.

As campaigners, we find ourselves alternating between being angered and frustrated by the next corporate scandal, the next worker death in the food system, or the next community exploited for their land. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that this anger is justified. Take giant meat and dairy corporations for example, companies like Tyson Foods, Smithfield, JBS and Arla (we call them Big Livestock): to date there have been at least 56,000 positive Covid-19 cases tied to meatpacking plants and at least 277 worker deaths in the United States. Here in the UK, the BMPA has denied claims from unionised workers in the industry that low-paid, migrant meatpackers are being treated as “disposable assets” despite the virus’ deadly spread. Just recently we witnessed the 1000th day of ongoing struggle in Turkey to bring justice to The Cargill 14 – 14 workers who were unfairly dismissed for trying to unionise at a Cargill plant in Turkey.

This isn’t a case of a handful of companies handling the pandemic badly. It’s evidence of what we’ve known all along: that extracting profit from people and the planet is at the core of industrial meat and dairy’s business model. Without low-paid migrant workers baring the brunt of this crisis in slaughterhouses, without indigenous communities being stripped of their land and livelihoods, rich consumers in the UK, US and Europe simply wouldn’t have the possibility to consume so much meat.

To dismantle this toxic industry we must turn to the systems that brought it into being in the first place which is why at Feedback we’re launching workshops for activists, students, and everyone concerned about giant meat and dairy corporations but find themselves feeling powerless in the fight against them. Through critically examining the food on our plates and questioning the systems of power that give rise to the biggest failures of our food system, together we are reimagining what food activism in the UK, for food justice globally, looks like.

Our divestment campaign calls, not for a reform of these companies, but a complete end to them. Corporations processing meat and dairy produced at an industrial scale will always be driven by extractive forces. When an industry is rotten to its core, there is nothing else to do but uproot it. By imagining a world without exploitation and extractivism in the food system, we’re equipping campaigners with the skills and tools they need to call for their banks, institutions, and pension funds to divest from Big Livestock – will you be one of them?

To find out more about our campaign or to organise free workshops, get in contact with Big Livestock Campaigner Mia here.

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