Revealed: How livestock market protests have cost the taxpayer thousands
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Animal rights protests at a Norfolk livestock market have cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds since they began three years ago, it can be revealed.
Since 2017, Norfolk Animal Save activists have picketed at the entrance of Norwich Livestock Market on Hall Road, whenever the monthly market has been held.
And a freedom of information request has revealed that the costs of policing the protests have seen more than £8,500 of the public’s money being spent by Norfolk Constabulary to prevent them getting out of hand.
And one protest alone, the inaugural demonstration on December 2, 2017, cost the force £1,921.22 in additional staffing.
In total, Norfolk Constabulary has spent £8,686.02 on providing officers to keep the peace during the protests.
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However, this sum only relates to 2017 and 2018, with the police since being able to staff the demonstrations without the need to draw from funds outside of its ordinary budget.
A freedom of information officer for the constabulary said the amounts provided only related to “where additional officers were required or officer overtime paid, outside of their usual shift”.
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Mike Beckett, vice chairman of Norwich Livestock Market, said: “In my opinion, it is a total and utter waste of the taxpayer’s money that the police are forced to come down here to manage protests.
“I can’t fault what they do, they do a brilliant job, but it is a great frustration that they have to do it when all farmers are doing is trying to do a job they have done for centuries.
“It is a necessary cost because without them the market would not be able to operate, but if the protests were done in a more sensible way they would not need to spend the public’s money on policing it.”
However Debbie Anne, organiser of Norfolk Animal Save, said: “Many individuals and organisations hold peaceful protests to highlight injustices and these are permitted under the Human Rights Act 1998.
“Freedom of assembly and expression is thankfully a right we still enjoy in this country. The Save Movement is no different from any other person or organisation exercising these rights.
“We have not asked the police to attend any of our vigils, in fact it is the livestock market that calls them down each month and insists that they attend.
“In regards to the huge amount of money being wasted in this way, questions should be asked of the chief constable, who is responsible for making those decisions.
“The vigils have always been over policed and we have on all occasions commented to the Officer in charge, that their services should be directed towards victims of crime rather than at a peaceful vigil.”
A spokesman for Norfolk Constabulary said: “Public safety is paramount to the constabulary, and the livestock market vigils had previously required police attendance in order to support this.
“On occasions some of the tactics deployed by the protestors has raised concern for both their safety and for those using the roads to access the market, and therefore police attendance was necessary.
“Through ongoing liaison with both parties we have been able to scale back our presence, however, where intelligence or incident requires us to do so we will respond accordingly.”
Norfolk Constabulary has staffed 20 protests since the first in December 2017 and has not been required to make any arrests while in attendance.
Twenty-four officers attended the 2017 protests, 117 attended protests in 2018, 56 in 2019 and 34 have attended thus far in 2020 - though the market is temporarily out of action as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.