Police called to peaceful ‘McSit-in’ climate protest in Taunton

Climate activists held a sit-in protest at Taunton McDonald’s on Saturday, demanding that the fast-food chain moves towards a plant-based menu. Branded a McSit-in, they brought their own plant-based lunches and occupied areas of the restaurant for over two hours, insisting that the fast-food chain takes responsibility for the destruction they say it causes on our planet.  The protest follows similar sit-ins held in Weymouth, Yeovil and Dorchester McDonald’s branches, as well as McDonald’s branches across the country.   

Catherine Cannon, a local climate activist at Saturday’s sit-in, said:

“The climate and ecological emergency that we are facing is critical, and we need corporations to take the lead and do everything they can to minimise their impact on the climate. When it comes to food, that means transitioning to plant-based.”  

“McDonald’s and the wider intensive animal agriculture industry is responsible for huge levels of deforestation, and is a major driver of climate change.  Investigations have shown that McDonald’s livestock feed comes from deforested areas of Brazil and Bolivia.”  

“A fully plant-based McDonald’s may sound odd, but it is actually a very reasonable demand when we consider the scale of the crisis that we are facing.” 

This local action comes after Animal Rebellion, a sister organisation to Extinction Rebellion, blockaded the McDonald’s burger factory in Scunthorpe, which they claim is the only producer of McDonald’s burgers in the country.  The factory, which makes up to 3 million beef patties a day for McDonald’s, was shut down for almost three days by activists who used bamboo structures and trucks to block the entrance.  

In May, around 100 Animal Rebellion activists blockaded all four of McDonald’s UK distribution centres, effectively shutting down the UK supply chain of the biggest fast-food company in the world.  1,300 restaurants were affected by the blockades, which lasted between 19 – 30 hours.  

Catherine said: “We want to be clear that we are not criticising individual diet choices.  We are targeting the McDonald’s corporation, and not its customers.  We want McDonald’s to adopt a more responsible business model – one that is better for our planet and also for people’s health.  Advances in food technology are so good that you can barely taste the difference between a plant-based burger and a beef burger, but the difference in impact on our planet is enormous.”  

“As the biggest fast-food corporation in the world, McDonald’s has a responsibility to lead the way to a more sustainable future”.  

Scientists widely agree that meat and dairy consumption are major contributors to climate breakdown.  In his latest documentary, Sir David Attenborough said that “we must change our diets … the planet simply cannot support billions of meat-eaters“.  

Scientists recently confirmed that the Amazon is now emitting more carbon dioxide than it is able to absorb, with most of the fires deliberately set to clear land for grazing and to grow soy for livestock feed.  The government-commissioned National Food Strategy, published in July and led by Henry Dimbleby, recommended that the government set a target to reduce the nation’s meat consumption by 30% by 2030.  

This week’s IPCC report warns of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and a key temperature limit being broken in just over a decade, and has been labelled a ‘wake up call’ for the world by Alok Sharma, the president of the upcoming COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.    Antonio Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, said  the report is a ‘code red for humanity’.

Rose Patterson, a spokesperson for Animal Rebellion, said:

“We’re living in a time where massive change is possible, but our window to act on the climate crisis is closing quickly.  The meat and dairy industries are responsible for 80-90% of Amazon deforestation, at least 18% of global emissions…  To save ourselves and the future of our children, we must start transitioning towards a plant-based food system.” 

Jon Williams, another activist at Saturday’s sit-in, said:

“The quantity of meat and dairy that we are currently consuming is just not sustainable for our planet. 

“McDonald’s has a real opportunity to lead on this, but currently other chains are doing far more.  Wagamama has committed to going 50% plant-based by the end of this year.  That’s the kind of bold action we need to see from all food chain corporations”.   

Police were called by the branch management but officers agreed that no offences had been committed by the peaceful protesters.