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Vegan protestors criticised over targeting of small businesses

 Vegan organisation Direct Action Everywhere (DEA) disrupted trade at five butchers in Ballymena, Co Antrim, last Saturday
Paul Ainsworth

AN animal rights group has been urged to “think again” over planned demonstrations at small businesses after targeting a series of butcher shops.

Vegan organisation Direct Action Everywhere (DEA) disrupted trade at five butchers in Ballymena, Co Antrim, last Saturday and say more protests are planned at other “places of violence” in the coming weeks and months.

The group claims to seek the “total liberation of animals” and during last week’s demonstrations waved placards at customers and traders that stated “it’s not food it’s violence”.

Activist Matthew McKeefry told the Irish News their methods were based on the non-violent actions of Martin Luther King, but the group has been accused of intimidating shopkeepers and customers.

“We want to tell the story of meat from the animal’s perspective,” Mr McKeefry said.

“Our actions mirror the history of social justice activism such as the suffragettes and civil rights movements. We will go to any place of violence, and DEA plans monthly days of action around the world.”

However, butcher John McCrum of Ballymena’s Prime Cuts said the group had disrupted trade on the busiest day of the week.

“I have nothing against people’s right to protest, but I refused them entry to do it in my shop. As a ratepayer I have a right to retail and to protect my customers from intimidation.”

The Chief Executive of Retail NI, Glyn Roberts, called on the group not to enter stores during future protests.

“I don’t question their cause or ideas, but I question their tactics,” Mr Roberts said.

“Small independent family owned businesses do not need this sort of thing, and I would urge these people to think again in future about how they go about making their point.”

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