This year’s Earth First! Summer Gathering begins tomorrow and lasts until the 24th. It promises to be the largest and most exciting for many years, with at least 500 people expected, The list of workshops is incredible – the most diverse at any event I have seen – and the programme which runs to over 80 pages (pdf below) is a thing of beauty in itself. The Gathering is in Ashbourne in Derbyshire, not a million miles away from where I live, and I will make every effort to get there.
Controversy has been caused due to the site being a dairy farm. Many people are unhappy about this. The dairy industry causes huge suffering to animals and is a major contributor to environmental destruction, especially climate change, so it seems a strange choice of venue. On the Facebook event page, Nicole Vesper, animal rights activist and ex-SHAC prisoner, explained the decision this way:
I can understand the frustration… in response I’d like to say that that gathering is significantly bigger than any AR gathering and most sanctuaries in the UK would not have the facilities to host so many people (500 people expected this year). Last year the gathering was held on a vegan farm in Somerset (the gathering was way smaller). Less than 1% of the population in the UK own more than 70% of the land and its dominated by animal & industrial agriculture. This is what we should be angry about. There is an urgent need to reclaim land & use it for plant based systems/vegan land use.
People go to festivals/events all the time where the land is used for animal agriculture. The site itself is used for a major green festival each year where other animal related groups go. I think instead of having a go at a tiny collective of people that are working their assess off to organise an event that could potentially radicalise hundreds of people, its worth seeing all this in the bigger picture & being part of an effort that links these struggles. How many animals do you think are harmed by fracking or fossil fuels? How much wildlife is destroyed by road building? We can’t separate issues out anymore.
There will be tons of new people coming together who have probably never eaten vegan food or thought about it much. Veggies catering will be there & there is an in-depth article in the programme linking veganism with capitalism & ecological destruction. I’d really encourage people to go & join the collective next year to make sure the site is somewhere different (its always rotated around the UK). I can imagine EF! haven’t officially replied because they are most likely up to their eyeballs sorting stuff out.
Since getting out of prison & being un/less able to do animal lib stuff I found EF! a really inspiring community of comrades.
I think Nicole’s right when she says “we can’t separate issues out anymore”. The programme contains a three page article entitled Why Vegan Food? Animal Liberation, Ecology & Capitalism, which shows exactly where the organisers stand on these issues. As ever, the Gathering will be 100% vegan with Veggies providing the catering. There’s even going to be vegan beer as well! It’s been mentioned that the farmer – who also let the land be used for the Northern Green Gathering – wants to get out of the dairy industry. I have no way of knowing whether that’s true, but what is certain is that events like this, where he’ll be meeting lots of vegans and will have the chance to eat delicious vegan food, may well make up his mind for him.
Good luck to Nicole and all the other people who’ve put so much time into this. With fracking centrestage as the new environmental movement of our time, there is every reason to believe that the sort of radical eco-anarchist tradition of EF! is back with a vengeance
Programme & Handbook pdf: http://cdn.frack-off.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/themes/frack-off/images/ef-programme.pdf