Ines Alegria Castillo is a vegan and climate change activist who acted as the organiser in charge of the Animal Rebellion protests in London back in October. Here she is telling us about the benefits of plant-based diet and challenges that the communities faced during the two weeks that put London on hold.
How long have you been vegan and what challenged you most in your journey?
I have been vegan for over 3 years now. Once I knew the facts about the suffering involved in animal agriculture it actually became very easy to make that decision. The only challenge I face has been other people questioning my choices, sometimes in quite an aggressive way.
What's your mission as an activist?
My mission as an activist is to expose the truth behind the animal agriculture industry and to inform the public about the damage this industry does to our planet. People cannot plead ignorance any longer and marketing companies should not get away with false advertising, feeding the public lies about how meat, fish and dairy are good for us and using the labels “humane” and “high welfare”when in reality animals are abused and murdered in their trillions. We must push the government to first tell the truth by exposing these industries, to act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions before it is too late, and finally to create a sustainable and just plant-based food system.
Tell us about Animal Rebellion; what do you love about the organisation most?
Animal Rebellion takes the spotlight away from the individual and places it upon the organisations responsible for putting together the systems we follow. It seeks to shift the blame from the consumer onto the industry, focussing on the flaws in our food system set out by governmental departments such as DEFRA (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). I like the fact that it is a non-violent organisation, open to everyone and non-judgemental. It is very much a community. I think there is a misconception about Animal Rebellion that we just want to make everyone vegan but actually our key concern is a top-down system approach that will put into place a plant-based food system that will not only feed the entire world but stop adding to greenhouse gas emissions.
What was your role in the protests?
In the October Rebellion I was part of Animal Rebellion’s Logistics team and my role was to coordinate all transport and storage needs pre, during and post Rebellion. I was in charge of organising the transport for all of our equipment and making sure everything arrived onto site safely. As the transport point person I was also in charge of making sure the most important items such as food for the Rebels was brought to site and any excess food was taken to other XR sites who had had their kitchen equipment and resources taken away from them by the police.
Animal Rebellion was only formed this summer but due to our participation in the October protests we have now gone global and many people are starting to learn about us and are becoming interested in our position. As a direct result of our protests at Smithfield Market which is the largest wholesale meat market in the UK (and one of the largest of its kind in Europe), for the first time after 800 years of being the home of meat they are set to start selling fully plant-based burgers which replicate the look, smell and taste of meat. We have also had over 300 press appearances across a broad mix of outlets, to name a few, The BBC, The Guardian, The Observer , The Independent, The Times and The Telegraph.
Why is it important to encourage more people to join the vegan movement and how is activism such as Animal Rebellion helping the cause/why is it important?
Current studies and research by the FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) and NASA show that the leading cause of both global greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation are due to animal agriculture. This is more global greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector combined, not to mention the immense amounts of water required for meat production, especially in comparison with the water needed to produce soybeans or corn.
A recent report published by Greenpeace also discovered that fishing gear is the largest plastic polluter in the ocean. Therefore, If you are currently adopting some of the most commonly promoted practises such as avoiding single use plastics and taking public transport over driving a personal car, you may wish to think about who the biggest culprits in the climate crisis are as well and rethink some of the items you put on your plate.
This current food system is extremely flawed and unsustainable and needs to change. A study published in the journal Science found that the single biggest impact you can have as an individual to reduce your carbon footprint is to follow a plant-based diet.
Animal Rebellion is trying to start a dialogue with government and animal agriculture industry leaders to show them the data and push them to make the necessary changes towards a sustainable food system. Many people think it’s too difficult to make the changes we need to make to our current food system and Animal Rebellion is showing that it is actually quite straightforward and achievable, both for individuals and on a national and international level. But time is running out and we need to start making those changes now.
Thank you Ines and good luck in your journey!