Should Protesters Use Disruptive Techniques?

Megan Brown

After recent protesters disrupted the Grand National, questions have arisen about whether disturbance is an effective way of protesting.

On 15th April, the Grand National horse racing event was delayed after hundreds of Animal Rising protesters attempted to gain access to Aintree and glue themselves to the ground’s fencing. The race itself was not the only thing disrupted by the protest, with the M57 blocked by activists. As a result of this disruption, police confirm that 118 arrests were made.

This protest took place after a third racehorse died at this year’s Grand National meeting. Animal Rising stated: “We will continue to put our bodies in the way of harm to animals, until we are able to end animal exploitation and create a brighter future for all life”, highlighting their aims and outlook on the situation.

Disruptive protests actually alienate the public, rather than engage them

Critics suggest that this protest did more harm than good. For instance, on Good Morning Britain, broadcaster Dawn Nissim suggested that disruptive protests actually alienate the public, rather than engage them. For example, she states: “it is going to antagonise people they want to get on side i.e. the people that attend horse racing”.

Moreover, Dawn Nissim further discusses how the protest is dangerous for the horses themselves. Similarly, Sandy Thomson (the trainer of Hill Sixteen) suggests that the fall and death of her horse was a result of Animal Rising’s actions, as the delay caused him to become stressed and “absolutely hyper”.

Contrastingly, supporters of Animal Rising, such as the wildlife TV presenter and conservationist Chris Packham, took to Twitter to advocate for the protests. These supporters suggest that this protest is, in fact, effective as it not only sparked conversation and publicity, but it further placed Animal Rebellion at the centre of the national debate on animal agriculture.

Animal Rising states “Direct actions WORKS” above a video highlighting the numerous news articles that reported on the protest

One Twitter user stated: “Disruption-based organizations: take note. This is how it’s done” when referring to the recent events, whilst another user compared it to the suffragette movements. Animal Rising states “Direct actions WORKS” above a video highlighting the numerous news articles that reported on the protest, suggesting that disruptive protests are the way forward.

Therefore, this leads to the question and debate of whether disruptive protests are effective at putting across important messages to the general public. For example, without these protests would we still know the name Animal Rising? Or would it be possible for these animal rights activists to accumulate this scale of publicity through other means?

Megan Brown

Featured image courtesy of Joel de Vriend via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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