Extinction Rebellion are harming the environmental cause



Thursday saw yet more drama in Westminster.

This time though, it didn’t come from the chamber of the House of Commons. The hard-line environmental group, Extinction Rebellion (XR), found themselves at the centre of a humiliating PR disaster. Likely one that will haunt them indefinitely.

Bungling activists had hoped to spray red liquid, imitating blood, over the entirety of the Treasury, fired from a retired fire engine. Unfortunately for them though, appropriate tests clearly hadn’t been carried out because the hose virtually exploded fake blood all over them. It was a sight to behold.

Much to the amusement of the waiting press pack and passers-by, the stunt quickly descended into chaos. The protesters were arrested. The fire engine wasn’t taxed, and the Treasury is a listed building, meaning the punishment could potentially be severe. The clean-up operation will no doubt be paid for by the taxpayer.

On top of this, XR are threatening to bring London into a state of chaos next week, with planned demonstrations across the capital and further afield. Stopping people from travelling freely on public transport, for example, is completely counterproductive and if anything, a massive contradiction.

Police are being called in from around the capital to assist. Putting aside the obvious burden to the taxpayer, it is potentially taking vital resources from front-line crime fighting operations in communities across London.

XR also work with Animal Rebellion (AR), who simply put, are making farmers lives a misery. They are planning to shut down Smithfield Meat Market next week. My sources on the ground there are incredibly anxious. They fear for their businesses and the knock-on effect action by XR and AR will have on their families. These are ordinary working people suffering at the hands of a self-proclaimed movement that claim to want to unite the country in aid of their cause.

The actions of these groups have a direct, negative impact on the countryside we know and love and on rural people. Despite AR’s calls to ban meat, they refuse to tell us what the countryside will look like as a result. Cattle would be phased out, as well as sheep and lambs; destroying people’s livelihoods and fundamentally changing the way the countryside looks and operates. The pastureland used in livestock farming creates a habitat for other wild species, especially insects, which would therefore also go.

Across the country, we are all doing much more to be environmentally conscious. In rural areas, for example, farmers are working incredibly hard to go even further in positively contributing to the environment. The NFU have put forward improvements in productivity, carbon capture and renewable energy production, as part of its commendable ambition to reach net zero by 2040.

XR are incredibly dependant on young people. There’s a market for it and being environmentally conscious has hit the big time. Caring about and wanting to tackle climate change is laudable. While I’m naturally not comfortable with youngsters missing school, I find the commitment to their cause; the hilarious slogans and savvy placard designs all quite commendable and on the face of it, generally harmless.

The issue I have is that when you scratch beneath the colourful Instagram posts and the Snapchat stories, many of the kids protesting under the XR banner are unknowingly being led by false prophets, only interested in their own PR at the expense of everyone else.

News reports with interviews at CR organised rallies repeatedly show interviews with young children, some crying and breaking down when responding to questions. Many are frightened about their immediate existence on planet earth. I’ve seen these kids being mocked online, but it really isn’t funny: it’s deeply disturbing.

Some of the younger kids are led along by teachers, with many brandishing Social Worker funded and printed signs. This is an uncomfortable thing to watch. I loathe the idea of extremist political parties using these events to recruit impressionable youngsters, by piggy backing on the genuine concerns around the environment. If XR organisers cared one iota about their followers’ welfare, they’d put an end to Socialist Worker infiltration. But they won’t.

XR’s organisers want to be noticed. They’ve achieved that, but for all the wrong reasons. Preventing people from getting to or from work; attacking farmers; calling on banning meat; plumping up the public bill for policing their events and generally causing a public nuisance, is doing more to annoy people than it is to win them over.

At every turn XR and their associates are alienating and dividing people, one annoying PR flop at a time.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher is a political commentator and spokesman for the Countryside Alliance. Follow him on twitter: @mometfisher