Two brave activists scaled Defra HQ, demanding an end to animal agriculture to prevent pandemics

London (December 15, 2022) - Animal Justice Project [1] activists have, in the early hours of this morning, climbed the DEFRA HQ in Westminster wearing hazmat suits to unfurl a giant 15ft x 9ft banner calling for an urgent end to animal agriculture due to its link to pandemics and animal suffering.

IMAGES: (photos being added throughout the morning)

Animal Justice Project demands that the UK Government open a dialogue about ending animal agriculture, and take 3 meaningful steps towards a plant-based food system:

  1. Implement a subsidies scheme solely incentivising plant-based farming
  2. Recognise the urgency of ending animal agriculture to prevent pandemics. A decade ago, the Department of Health predicted that up to 750,000 people in the UK could lose their lives if bird flu reaches pandemic status [2]. 
  3. Translate this recognition into legislative reform. Animal Justice Project proposes that a restriction on farming animals be included in laws such as the Avian Influenza (Preventative Measures) (England) Regulations 2006 [3], or the more recent Avian Influenza and Influenza of Avian Origin in Mammals (Amendment) (England) Order 2022 [4].

Animal Justice Project says the government must act urgently given the current catastrophic bird flu situation and the mass suffering for animals caused by intensive farming, which accounts for a staggering 80 percent of all animal agriculture here in the UK [5].

The pressure group emphasises that we are living with the largest Avian Influenza (bird flu) outbreak ever recorded [6], with the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain spreading through bird populations at an unprecedented rate. Over 3.8 million birds [7] within the UK have lost their lives to the virus from the disease itself or through culling, including over half of the 1.3 million turkeys destined for the Christmas table this winter [8]. In the EU, at least 400,000 free-living birds have also lost their lives to the virus, via 2,600 outbreaks [9]. Cases are rising and they did not, for the first time, cease in the summer months this year [10].

A staggering three-quarters of newly-emerging infectious diseases originated in animals [11] before mutating and transferring to humans. H5N1 can easily be caught through bodily fluid containing a miniscule amount of its pathogens [12] and transferred between any animal. For example, birds coming into contact with fecal waste or farm and abattoir operatives carrying the pathogens on their skin or clothing.

Overcrowded farms act as breeding grounds for pandemics [13]. On Intensive Poultry Unit (IPU)s [14], where around 95 per cent of chickens are reared [15], the strain may be passed onto over 40,000 other birds in each shed. The number of industrial-sized pig and poultry units in the UK has jumped with the growing demand for cheap meat.

Research shows that the pathogenicity of H5N1 could become airborne after just 3-5 mutations [16], making it easily transmissible between mammals, including humans. So far there have been 456 human fatalities to H5N1 worldwide between 2003 and 2022, out of 868 cases [17]; its mortality rate in humans is approximately 50%. UN epidemiologists have warned this number could rise to up to 150 million [18] if measures aren’t taken to prevent it from spreading.

Hope Wetherall, Animal Justice Project Campaigner says: “Activists today are braving the elements and dizzying heights to highlight the inaction of our government on the urgent and catastrophic outbreak of bird flu that is tearing through intensive chicken sheds at lightning speed, as well as other animal agriculture-causing diseases. Modern agriculture causes both immense suffering and death to animals, and a very real risk to humans, yet we continue to see no real action taken by the politicians other than declaring avian influenza prevention zones and mass culling - actions that fail to target the source of the problem. It is imperative that government bodies such as DEFRA take preventative and meaningful action NOW.”


  • As part of their ‘Off The Scales’ campaign, Animal Justice Project is urging East Lindsey District Council [19], housing around 12,000 intensively-reared chickens [20], to deny any further planning permissions for IPUs in the region.

  • Animal Justice Project urges the government to listen to its own, in-house warnings and increase the UK Health and Security Agency’s categorisation of the bird flu risk to humans from ‘low’ [21] to ‘high’.

  • Animal Justice Project is an animal protection NGO based in the UK with 200,000 followers and an 8-year history campaigning to end cruel animal farming practices, and advocating for a plant-based diet.


Hope Wetherall, Campaigner - M: +44 (0)7516 427149 E:
Ayton Cooper, Campaigns Manager - M: + 44 (0) 7512 037157 E:























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